Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Environment

Rabies

Key Messages
Human Rabies Disease
Animals Involved in Potential Rabies Exposure Incidents
Animal Rabies Vaccination
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis
Rabies Surveillance in Animals
Technical Notes

Key Messages

  • The number of rabies exposure incidents investigated by the health unit has been increasing since 2015.
  • Rabies program activities at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit were modified in 2020.
  • Human rabies infection is very rare in Canada. There was one fatal human case of rabies in British Columbia in 2019.
  • Two-thirds of animals involved in potential rabies exposure incidents in Simcoe Muskoka were dogs. Over half (59%) of these dogs were vaccinated against rabies.
  • In 2020, the health unit supported low cost rabies clinics which vaccinated nearly 900 pets against rabies.
  • The number of people who received post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent the development of the rabies disease has been increasing since 2015.
  • 2019 was an unusual year with a higher number of investigations and PEP administrations than expected. This is likely in response to the human rabies case in British Columbia.

Human Rabies Disease

  • Rabies is a fatal disease in humans. Fortunately, human cases of rabies are rare in Canada.
  • In 2019, there was a fatal human case of rabies infection in British Columbia. This was associated with local contact with a bat.
  • The last human case of rabies in Ontario was in 2012, associated with animal exposure outside of Canada.
  • The last locally acquired case in Ontario was in 1967, over 50 years ago.

Animals Involved in Potential Rabies Exposure Incidents

  • In 2020, two-thirds (67%) of animals investigated for potential rabies exposure incidents were dogs.
  • Other animals involved in potential rabies exposure investigations included cats, bats, mice, chipmunks, raccoons, squirrels and other wild and domestic animals.
  • In 2020, 59% of dogs involved in investigations were vaccinated, an increase from 532% in 2019.
  • Overall, 39% of animals involved in potential rabies exposure investigations were cats and dogs that were unvaccinated or for which rabies vaccination status was unknown.

RabExposurebyVaccStatus2017_20181114

Animal Rabies Vaccination

  • In 2020, the health unit supported 7 low cost rabies vaccination clinics, provided by 5 veterinarians.
  • Nearly 900 animals, mostly dogs (76%), were vaccinated by these clinics.
  • This is a drop from 22 clinics, vaccinating approximately 2,750 animals in 2019.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

  • 263people were advised to seek medical advice for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) administration in 2020.
  • PEP was administered to roughly half of at-risk individuals.
  • The number of at-risk individuals and the number of incidents where PEP is administered has been increasing since 2015. In 2020, fewer at-risk individuals were identified than in 2019, but this represented a higher portion of all incidents investigated.
  • 43% of the incidents where PEP was administered involved bats in 2020, an increase from 32% in 2018, but a decrease from 51% in 2019.
  • Roughly two-thirds (66%) of incidents that led to PEP administration involved contact with wildlife including bats, raccoons and rodents. This proportion has been increasing since 2014.

RabOutcomes2015to2017_20181114

RabPEPbyAnimal2017_20181114

Rabies Surveillance in Animals

  • The number of animals submitted for rabies testing from the Simcoe Muskoka region decreased with 72 animals submitted in 2020, compared to 91 in 2019, and 73 in 2018.
  • There was on bat that tested positive in each of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020. No animals from the Simcoe and Muskoka regions tested positive in 2018 or 2019.
  • In 2020, 25 bats were submitted for testing, an increase from 21 bats in 2019 and 12 in 2018.
  • Increased testing of bats from 2019 forward likely stems from concerns related to a fatal human case of rabies in 2019 in British Columbia that was associated with a bat encounter.

RabAnimalTesting2015to2017_20181114

Technical Notes

Rabies is a fatal disease caused by the rabies virus which infects humans and other mammals. The virus is transmitted when viruses in the saliva of an infected animal comes into contact with blood or mucous membranes of other animals, this is usually through a bite or sometimes a scratch. Fortunately, due to strong rabies prevention and control activities, human cases are rare in Canada.

By law, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies, even pets that are indoor only. Livestock (e.g. cows, sheep) that are exposed to the public such as those at petting zoos and pony rides must also be vaccinated. The health unit collects information about vaccination status of animals involved in potential rabies exposure investigations, but it is unknown what proportion of all pets are vaccinated against rabies.

When a person reports an animal bite or scratch to the health unit, the health unit may suggest they contact a healthcare provider to discuss rabies post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP for preventing the development of the rabies disease.

When an animal that has been involved in a biting incident is suspected to be infected with and is potentially at risk of transmitting the rabies virus, the health unit may arrange for the animal to be tested for rabies through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency laboratory. Animal testing may also be arranged by veterinarians with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in cases where the animal has not bitten or potentially exposed a human to rabies, and wildlife rabies surveillance may be conducted by wildlife organizations such as the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. Regardless of which agency submits an animal for testing, all animals with positive rabies test results are to be reported to the health unit. This information is used for surveillance purposes and to understand risks to human health.

Further Reading

For more information on rabies, animal surveillance, and what to do if you’ve been bitten by an animal, see:

Page Last Modified: November 17, 2021