Veterinarian works to stop rabies in New Brunswick

Veterinarian Dr. Jim Goltz is part of the team that will be working to slow the spread of rabies in parts of New Brunswick.

Half a million oral vaccines will be spread across southwestern New Brunswick

Veterinarian Dr. Jim Goltz shows the rabies vaccine set to be spread across southwestern New Brunswick. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Dr. Jim Goltz remembers the first time he saw a rabid animal.

"It was quite scary," said New Brunswick's provincial veterinarian. "The animal had an abnormal behaviour and was acting very aggressive.

When animals get rabies, they do things we don't expect.- Dr. Jim Goltz, provincial veterinarian

"Most of the time as veterinarians we can predict the behaviour of animals, we know how they will respond, but when animals get rabies, they do things we don't expect."

As a result, Goltz became an expert in rabies and has worked for 30 years with the province to contain, detain, and eliminate rabies by using methods like trapping and immunizing.

Goltz is part of the team that is working to slow the spread of rabies in parts of New Brunswick.

The provincial government has doubled the number of baited oral vaccines for wildlife to 500,000. It plans to air drop and hand deliver the vaccines over the next two months to Carleton County, Saint John, and Fredericton and Chartlotte County.

The vaccines, with capsules that smell of maple, will be coated in fat, marshmallow and sugar and will be placed where raccoons and skunks hang out. When eaten, the animal becomes immune to rabies in about two weeks.

Rural areas will get 75 baits per square kilometre and in the cities, more than double that.

Rabies vaccines have a wax coating that smells of maple. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)
While cases of rabies are heaviest in southwest New Brunswick, Goltz said they are trying to create a protective barrier after a case of rabies was found in McAdam in 2015.

At the time, 200,000 vaccines were dropped. There has been one case of rabies reported so far this year.

Rabies cases are heaviest in the southwest of the province.  But last year, an outlier popped up about 85 kilometres north, in McAdam.

"We're hoping to keep the rabies virus out of the St. John River Valley and we know there is a higher density of raccoons in the river valley and cities," said Goltz.

"So we just figured, strategically, both Saint John and Fredericton would be the ideal places to have boundaries for our preventative actions."

With files from Catherine Harrop