Officials are investigating what might be Hamilton's first case, in over two decades, of domestic rabies.

Hamilton Public Health made the announcement Friday morning, saying it is working with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit to determine if anyone in the region came into contact with a rabid cat.

"Public Health Services was notified on August 25, 2016 by Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit that a cat that may have originated in a rural area of Ancaster tested positive for rabies," a news release from the city reads.

"This may be Hamilton's first case of domestic rabies in over 20 years."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is now testing to see if the infected animal's illness is related to the raccoon strain of rabies running through the wild animal population in the city. City spokesperson Aisling Higgins told CBC News the cat may be a rural Ancaster cat, but it came into contact with a Haldimand-Norfolk resident.

After years without a case in Ontario, the viral disease has pushed back into the area in a big way this year. Over 100 rabid animals have been found, including raccoons, skunks and bats.

"The rabies risk is real — our goal is to protect the health of our community and prevent human cases of rabies which is almost always fatal," said Dr. Jessica Hopkins, the city's associate medical officer of health.

The city offers the following measures to protect families and pets from rabies:

  • Always keep a safe distance from wild and unknown animals. Rabies can make animals aggressive or it can make them appear sick, scared, or friendly.
  • Avoid contact with live or dead animals including raccoons, skunks, other land animals and bats, and unknown dogs and cats. Do not feed, help, or relocate any wildlife or keep them as pets.
  • Keep your pets supervised.
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies, and keep rabies vaccinations current for dogs and cats to protect them, and prevent any spread to people. Visit our website for information on low cost rabies vaccine clinics.
  • Report animal bites and scratches to public health by calling 905-546-2489. Wash wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention.
  • If you see sick, injured or strange behaving wildlife report it to City of Hamilton Animal Services 905-546-2489.