New Brunswick

Rabies spreading in New Brunswick raccoons

Public Health says nearly a dozen cases of rabies have been confirmed in New Brunswick in the past year.

Almost a dozen cases of rabies reported in the past year, with most of them the last 3 months.

A strain of rabies has infected a number of raccoons in Charlotte County. Public Health officials confirm almost a dozen cases, most within the past few months. 1:27

Public Health says nearly a dozen cases of rabies have been confirmed in New Brunswick in the past year.

Most of them have been reported in the past three months.

New Brunswick's chief veterinary officer says the fact that rabies is spreading among raccoons is a serious concern.

"When we get the raccoon variants, we're concerned even when we get one because when you get one, there's apt to be another and another and another," says Dr. Jim Goltz.

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system and spreads to the brain.

When it enters the brain, it changes and animal's behaviour in ways that help the virus spread.

"Animals with rabies tend to be more aggressive than otherwise and lack fear of people," says Goltz. "With this rabies incursion, we've seen a lot of raccoons out in the winter time at times when it's really really cold. And we've seen them active in broad daylight."

In January, Saint John's public health officer, Dr. Scott Giffin, called on the province to reintroduce a trap-and-release program to inoculate animals in the wild.

The province says it's working on a long-term strategy, which includes hiring a provincial rabies coordinator. That job is now being advertized publicly.

Health Canada says humans are rarely infected.

But it is essential to seek treatment immediately, when a person has been bitten by a potentially rabid animal.

If left untreated until symptoms occur, it's too late and it's almost always fatal.

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