Infected raccoon carcass retrieved near Simcoe

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

The health unit in Simcoe received confirmation this week that raccoon rabies has arrived in Norfolk County.  MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

The health unit in Simcoe received confirmation this week that raccoon rabies has arrived in Norfolk County. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER


Local residents are advised to take precautions now that raccoon rabies has been confirmed in Norfolk County.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit received confirmation of a rabid specimen on Tuesday.

The carcass was recently collected along Highway 24 near Simcoe and sent to the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry for testing.

“We have borders but animals unfortunately do not,” Kelsey Lutzi, the health unit’s manager of environmental health, said Wednesday.

“We hoped we could keep it at bay but unfortunately we can’t. It’s something we’ll have to monitor.”

Ontario was rabies-free for many years thanks to a bait vaccination program in wild areas of the province.

MNRF resurrected that program several years ago after rabid raccoons from upstate New York infiltrated eastern Ontario. Rabid raccoons from New York have since passed over the border into Canada in the area of Niagara Region.

Raccoon rabies was confirmed on Norfolk’s doorstep in Haldimand County in 2015. Two dozen raccoons have tested positive for rabies in Haldimand since then. Two skunks in Haldimand as well as a llama have also tested positive.

Since the raccoon rabies incursion, a total of 388 animals in Ontario have tested positive for the raccoon strain of rabies. Another 14 animals have tested positive for the fox strain.

Highway 24 north of Simcoe is a provincial highway. As such, it is maintained by the private contractor Carillion. Carillion’s duties include the removal of animal carcasses from the road allowance.

Lutzi says a Carillion employee decided that the carcass in question should be tested for rabies. The health unit will contact this employee to ensure precautions were taken during the collection of the carcass.

The health unit has warned about the dangers of raccoons on previous occasions. Raccoons harbour a number of diseases and parasites that can seriously damage human health.

The health unit offers the following tips for discouraging raccoons from venturing onto your property:

• Feed pets indoors. Do not leave anything edible outside that raccoons may find attractive. Residents jeopardize themselves and their neighbours when they feed wildlife.

• Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date.

• Stay away from animals that are behaving strangely.

• Prevent pets from coming in contact with wild animals. That means keeping pets inside after dark.

• Secure your garbage. If garbage contains edible leftovers, put it curbside in the minutes before the trash collector normally arrives.

Wild animals behaving strangely should be reported to the MNRF’s rabies hotline at 1-888-574-6656.

If a person is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, the incident should be reported immediately to the local health unit at 1-519-426-6170 or 1-905-318-6623.

Similar confrontations involving pets should be reported to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at 1-877-424-1300.

Rabies is a viral disease. The virus attacks the nervous system and causes severe inflammation of brain tissue. Rabies is nearly always fatal in humans and animals once symptoms present themselves.