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Province dropping more vaccines after 5th raccoon rabies case found

The province is stepping up its vaccine distribution on Monday as a fifth case of raccoon rabies was found in Cayuga late last week.

Fifth case of raccoon rabies in the province since 2005 found in Cayuga late last week

A fifth case of raccoon rabies in the Hamilton area was found in Cayuga last week. (Radio-Canada.ca)

The province is stepping up its vaccine distribution around Hamilton Monday as a fifth case of raccoon rabies was found in nearby Cayuga late last week.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will drop about 150,000 packets of bait in a 25-kilometre radius around the area where the rabid raccoons were found. It will hand place some, but it will also be using a twin-engine fixed wing plane this time to cut down on pricier helicopter trips like the ones it took last week, said the ministry's wildlife research manager, Chris Davies.

That's up from 46,000 bait vaccines that the ministry said would be dropped after the first four raccoons were found in Hamilton to have rabies. Cayuga is about 30 kilometres south-west of Hamilton and the new case indicates that the rabies strain is not confined to the area of the original discoveries.

The ministry office has a big map up with pins where the animals have been found and circles drawn around to represent the areas where vaccine will be dropped, Davies said. 

They've had to redo the map a couple of times. 

"It's been an exhausting 10 days, let's leave it at that," he said.

The fifth case of raccoon rabies in Ontario in a decade was found late last week, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said. 

The bait packets, which are about the size of a toonie, contain vaccine to prevent the spread of rabies.

'They're still moving; we're still baiting'

Davies said the ministry puts bait packages in a 25-kilometre radius of each location where an infected raccoon is found. That is two times the "home range" of a raccoon, he said.

And they're adding more surveillance within another 25-kilometre range beyond that, he said — staying in close contact with four public health teams and First Nations communities, and asking hunters and outdoors people to keep their eyes out for animals behaving strangely.

The warm December gives the ministry a bit of extra time to get the bait out to try to curb the spread of the disease, he said. 

"They're still moving; we're still baiting," he said. 

Public health officials are concerned about the disease's reemergence but say the risk to the general public remains quite low.

"As with any animal bite that we are notified of, we have investigative procedures in place to help ensure the victim is protected from getting rabies," said Sandy Stevens, Manager of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit's Environmental Health Team, in a press release.

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