Second case of Labrador fox rabies

A second case of fox rabies has been confirmed in Labrador.

Provincial veterinarian expects more cases

Arctic fox on the wharf in Battle Harbour, Labrador, in Jan. 2012. (Wayne King/DFO)

A second case of fox rabies has been confirmed in Labrador.

The province's chief veterinarian says a red fox killed near Labrador City five days ago tested positive for the disease.

"This second confirmation of rabies proves that the virus is active in Labrador West," said Dr. Hugh Whitney, Chief Veterinary Officer with the Department of Natural Resources Animal Health Division in a news release.

"With the high fox populations reported across Labrador, we will likely see more cases."

It is the second case in Labrador in the past six years. The first case in the area was confirmed earlier this month.

Earlier this month, Whitney warned that Labrador is ripe for an outbreak of rabies after the first case of the virus was confirmed in a red fox near Wabush.

"We have everything necessary for the virus to spread quite extensively in Labrador," Whitney told CBC News on Jan. 20.

The first animal was put down Jan. 12 after it attacked a shovel on the doorstep of a home in Wabush. Whitney said such unusual behaviour is a tell-tale sign of rabies.

Whitney said rabies outbreaks tend to happen when the fox population is high, as it is in Labrador this year. He said outbreaks tend to happen in four-year cycles.

"There is a fairly high concentration of foxes in Lab West. There are a lot of foxes around Goose Bay and there are reports of fox in northern Labrador. We know the virus is circulating in the Ungava Peninsula area. So everything is there," he said.

Whitney said people should be vigilant about keeping their animals on leashes, and having them vaccinated against rabies.

The virus can be lethal for animals and humans, if not treated quickly.

Officials with the departments of Natural Resources and Health and Community Services said they will continue to look for more cases and are encouraging residents of Labrador to be vigilant and to take the following precautions:

  • Keep domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, under control;
  • Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies;
  • Avoid wild animals particularly foxes and wolves;
  • Report any sightings of strange-acting wild or domestic animals to forestry officers, veterinarians, police or public health officials;
  • Wash any bites or other areas of contact with potentially rabid animals immediately with soap and water; and,
  • Immediately go to your health clinic or emergency department for treatment of any animal bites. Any significant contact with potentially rabid animals should be reported to public health officials.