New Brunswick

Rabid raccoon bite in Charlotte County prompts call for action

New Brunswick's medical officer of health in Saint John is urging the provincial government to resume trap-and-release and bait-and-drop inoculation programs in Charlotte Country, or risk a rabies outbreak.

Health officer urges provincial government to resume inoculation programs, or risk rabies outbreak

New Brunswick's medical officer of health in Saint John is urging the provincial government to resume trap-and-release and bait-and-drop inoculation programs in Charlotte Country, or risk a rabies outbreak.

Dr. Scott Giffin says trap-and-release and bait-and-drop programs have proven effective in St. Stephen before. (CBC)
Dr. Scott Giffin says a rabid raccoon bit a man in Oak Bay last week, bringing the total number of confirmed rabid raccoons in the area in recent weeks to at least three.

There have also been other reports of likely rabid raccoons, he said.

"This is in Charlotte Country right now, but if something isn't done about it, it will be spread up the coast."

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

Giffin says he was supposed to meet with Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health officials on Tuesday to discuss the issue, but the meeting was cancelled due to the blizzard.

Serious situation

He says he is urgently pushing to have it rescheduled. It's a serious situation, he said, warning that another attack could occur in the near future. 

"Therefore there needs to be some program put in place to restrict the number of exposures."

On Jan. 19, three men came across a raccoon that was acting strangely and one of them tried to pick the animal up, said Giffin.

"It bit him quite extensively. And there was one other member of the group that got blood sprayed on him. And there was one taking a cell phone [video] capturing all that went all, but he did not get exposed."

The raccoon tested positive for rabies and the two men who were exposed have received treatment, said Giffin.

St. Stephen used to have a successful trap-and-release program, where hunters live-trap animals, vaccinate them and release them, as well as a bait-and-drop program, where the vaccine is mixed with food and dropped in wooded areas, he said.

"We successfully eliminated the threat before, we should be able to go it again," said Giffin.

"I think it needs very serious consideration to be applied to this situation to see if it would be effective. But as far as I can determine, at this point it would be effective. It's a matter of, of course, money to put the program in place."

Katie Killen, of the Mayfield Veterinary Clinic in St. Stephen, says she has noticed an increase in encounters with potentially rabid animals.

"It certainty needs to be looked at, I think," she said. "I think we need to be investigating pretty thoroughly whether this is something that's become a big problem in the wild animal population."

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