Rabies is a virus that affects warm blooded animals and is spread by contact with saliva from an infected animal. Any warm-blooded mammal can be infected. Most of the reported cases involve wild animals like foxes, bats, raccoons, and skunks. However, domestic animals like dogs and cats are also at risk. It can be fatal to unvaccinated pets and to humans if not treated.
Report an animal exposure
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, follow these steps:
- If possible, collect animal owner/custodian information (name, address and phone number).
- Immediately wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
- Apply an antiseptic to the wound.
- Seek medical attention from a healthcare provider to assess your risk and discuss treatment options.
- To report an animal bite or scratch to York Region Public Health, choose one of the following reporting methods:
A physician, registered nurse in the extended class, veterinarian, police officer, or any other person who has information concerning a bite, scratch, or contact with an animal capable of the transmission of rabies is required to notify Public Health, as soon as possible. Information must include name and contact information of the exposed person.
York Region Public Health investigates all animal bites and non-bite incidents such as scratches and contact with open cuts. Public Health enforces mandatory rabies vaccination of dogs and cats and educates the public on animal bite prevention.
York Region residents and their pets should avoid contact with any wild or strange animals, especially those that may be behaving oddly - even if they do not seem dangerous. If you come upon a wild animal in your home, contact a wildlife removal company and maintain a safe distance until wildlife removal professionals arrive.
Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up-to-date
Low-cost rabies clinics for dogs and cats are promoted throughout York Region. Dates and locations of upcoming rabies clinics can be found on the York Region Events Calendar and in the Events Calendar section at the side or bottom of this page.
Treatment for humans
There is no cure for rabies once symptoms develop, so taking the proper precautions to avoid getting bitten is extremely important. There are a series of vaccines available for people who may have been exposed to the rabies virus. The vaccine is designed to prevent the development of symptoms, or death, caused by the rabies virus. If treatment is required, rabies vaccines, called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, are given and consist of a series of injections over a two week period.
How can I protect myself and my family?
There are many ways to protect yourself and your family from rabies.
- If you are an animal owner, keep your pet’s vaccinations up-to-date. Under Ontario law, dogs and cats
- If you have been bitten, scratched or licked by an animal wash the wound with soap and water and contact your doctor immediately
- Report all animal bites or scratches to York Region Public Health
- Teach your children to stay away from unfamiliar animals and to immediately tell an adult if they have been bitten or scratched
- Avoid feeding, handling or coming into contact with wild or unfamiliar animals
- Protect your pet from coming into contact with wild animals by keeping them on a leash when they are off your property
- Never touch a dead animal with your bare hands. If you must dispose of a dead animal, wear thick protective gloves and use a shovel
- Do not try to assist a sick or dying animal; call your local animal control agency to report a sick animal
- Take measures to keep wild animals away from your home and property
- If you are travelling abroad, avoid contact with wild animals and be especially careful around cats and dogs in developing countries
Keeping bats out of your home
Bats are capable of transmitting the rabies virus. Bats in York Region have tested positive for rabies.
Inspect your home for possible entry points
- Entry points are often near the edge of the roof such as under the eaves, soffits or loose boards, openings in the roof or vents, or crevices around the chimney
- Bats can squeeze through very tiny spaces, some the size of a dime
- If you have a colony of bats in your home, never attempt to remove the colony yourself. Always hire a professional animal removal company.
Bat proof your home
- Use window screens, chimney caps and draft guards beneath doors to attics, fill in electrical and plumbing holes with stainless steel wool or caulking and ensure all doors to the outside close tightly
What to do if you find a bat in your home
- The bat bit a person and it is still in your home:
- If the bat is alive, attempt to confine it in a room and contact York Region Health Connection to have the bat trapped and submitted for rabies testing. Never attempt to catch the bat yourself.
- If the bat is dead, protect your children and pets by placing a box or container over the bat and contact York Region Health Connection to have the bat tested for rabies.
- If there is no risk of exposure to either a person or animal:
- If the bat is alive, attempt to confine the bat to one room, turn out the lights and open a window. The bat should fly out on its own.
- If the bat is dead, contact your local municipality for directions on how to dispose of the dead bat. Never touch the bat with your bare hands. If you need to move the bat wear heavy duty gloves and use tongs or a shovel.
- Infection Prevention Resources
- Animal Exposure Incident Report
- Rabies Post Exposure Prophylaxis Information Sheet for Physicians
- Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: Rabies Prevention and Control Protocol
- Management of Potential Rabies Exposures Guideline
- Ministry of Natural Resources: The history of rabies in Ontario, rabies control efforts and fact sheets
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Rabies for travel purposes, vaccines and prevention recommendations
- World Health Organization: Rabies treatment, vaccines and rabies in children