Rabies in animals not common in area, health unit says, but bites can be deadly

Public Health Sudbury and District is reminding people about the danger of rabies in the area.

Reminder comes after man bit by rabid bat near Massey

Bats are one of the main vessels for rabies, the Sudbury health unit says. The virus can also be spread by infected skunks, foxes, raccoons and domestic animals. (Submitted by Cory Olson)

Public Health Sudbury and District is reminding people about the danger of rabies in the area.

Last week, a man in Sables-Spanish River was bitten by a bat infected with the virus. 

Adam Ranger, an environmental health officer with Public Health Sudbury and Districts, said although reports of rabid animals – bats, foxes, skunks and racoons are common carriers of the virus –  are fairly uncommon these days, bites can still be dangerous. 

"It's pretty much 100 per cent fatal, that is more of the concern for us," Ranger said. "It's a very deadly virus. And if the measures aren't taken after a person is exposed, then it will be fatal."

The virus is transmitted through biting, so people should take care not to handle wild animals, even if it's just to shoo them out of the camp.

Anyone who thinks they may have been bitten by a rabid animal should contact their doctors or their local health unit immediately. 

Ranger said that a tell-tale sign of rabies infection is if an animal, especially if it's normally nocturnal animal, like a fox or skunk, is visible and acting strange. 

"If you see a bat out of a nest kind of crawling around the ground, sometimes that's an indication that either it's injured or sick," Ranger said. 

"When you have nocturnal animals out during the day, that's another sign that something could be wrong."

Larissa Nituch, a science operations supervisor with Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, said the last reported death from rabies in Canada was in 2019 in British Columbia.

But authorities in the ministry are still keeping their eye on an outbreak in southern Ontario.

"The outbreak began in December of 2015 with a case in Hamilton ... a raccoon," Nitcuh said. "Essentially, it was discovered that the outbreak was caused by a translocation of an animal from eastern New York State."

Since ministry teams started the investigation, they've been able to help drop rabies cases by approximately 50 per cent every year, she said. 

"Ontario used to be known as the rabies capital of North America," Nituch said. "But since then have done a good job at controlling it. "

"There's only been a handful of cases since the 1960s."


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