Hamil­ton of­fi­cials is­sue ra­bies warn­ing

Res­i­dents ad­vised to steer clear of stray cats

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - CARMELA FRAGOMENI

Pub­lic health is warn­ing peo­ple to avoid con­tact with stray cats af­ter a sec­ond feline tested pos­i­tive for ra­bies on Mon­day.

The two cats are On­tario’s first do­mes­tic an­i­mals found with rac­coon strain ra­bies since an area wildlife out­break in late 2015.

“Now that we have two cats that have tested pos­i­tive, that risk (of hu­mans get­ting ra­bies) is real … Peo­ple need to take pre­cau­tions,” says Su­san Hard­ing-Cruz, vec­tor-borne dis­ease man­ager for Hamil­ton pub­lic health.

“The thing with ra­bies is that an an­i­mal can ap­pear nor­mal just prior to ex­hibit­ing symp­toms … but still be able to trans­mit the virus.”

The cat was found Jan. 29 in Glan­brook and dropped off at an­i­mal con­trol. It then de­vel­oped symp­toms and died on Feb. 1 as it was be­ing se­dated for eu­thana­sia, said Hard­ing-Cruz.

Test re­sults on Mon­day con­firmed it had ra­bies.

Now of­fi­cials are ask­ing any­one who lost, aban­doned, fed or came in con­tact with a male adult or­ange tabby in an area bounded by Ry­mal Road, 5th Line, and Fletcher and Har­ri­son roads, to con­tact them.

“We want to talk to them to help them as­sess their ra­bies risk,” Hard­ing-Cruz said.

In ad­di­tion, city staff was out in the rain Tues­day af­ter­noon de­liv­er­ing hand­outs to about 50 homes to alert res­i­dents about the ra­bid cat.

In Au­gust, a cat that roamed parts of An­caster was also found to have ra­bies when it died.

Of the 278 an­i­mals found since De­cem­ber 2015 with ra­bies in On­tario, 224 were found in Hamil­ton — al­most all were rac­coons and skunks. The out­break, in­stead of slow­ing down, has now jumped to cats.

“We don’t ex­pect to elim­i­nate the virus in less than five years,” said wild-

life re­search man­ager Chris Davies with the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry.

Be­fore this out­break, the last ra­bid wildlife found in Hamil­ton — two foxes and a skunk — were in 1994, said Hard­ing-Cruz.

Un­til last Au­gust, Hamil­ton did not have a ra­bid cat since 1993.

The city does how­ever, see a bat strain of ra­bies sur­fac­ing al­most ev­ery year, she said.

Be­fore this out­break, this rac­coon strain of ra­bies found in rac­coons and usu­ally skunks, was elim­i­nated in 2006, she said.

Davies said the strain re-en­tered south­ern On­tario from New York state.

The min­istry’s ra­bies con­trol pro­gram, which in­cludes putting out vac­cine baits for wildlife con­sump­tion, cost $4 mil­lion to $4.3 mil­lion in the 2016-17 fis­cal year, with sim­i­lar ex­penses ex­pected in 2017-18, Davies said.

If the ra­bies virus was not con­trolled, the es­ti­mated costs to deal with it, in­clud­ing treat­ments and deal­ing with in­fected an­i­mals, is es­ti­mated at $8 mil­lion to $12 mil­lion per year, he said.

The city last year re­ceived about $365,000 from the prov­ince to com­bat the out­break with two pub­lic health in­spec­tors and a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign. It will ap­ply for the same fund­ing this year, plus money for an ad­di­tional an­i­mal con­trol worker.

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