FREDERICTON (GNB) – With warmer weather, New Brunswick residents are reminded to step up efforts to help prevent the spread of rabies.

“With New Brunswickers spending more time outdoors enjoying our natural wonders we encourage them to take precautions to avoid coming into contact with this disease,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet, who is also the minister for Energy and Resource Development. “With raccoons, foxes and skunks out and active, residents have an important part to play in identifying and preventing the spread of rabies.”

“It is also a good time to remind your children about keeping a safe distance from wild animals,” Doucet said.

Residents are advised to make properties as unenticing to wild animals as possible by keeping garbage and compost bins secured and refraining from leaving pet food outside.

Those who live trap raccoons and skunks on their properties should not move the animals to another area because they could be spreading disease. For information on how to deal with nuisance wildlife visit the Energy and Resource Development website.

Anyone who sees an animal showing rabies-like signs should call 811.

Clinical signs consistent with rabies could include:

  • animals that are normally docile may become aggressive;
  • wild animals such as raccoons and skunks, which are normally most active at night, may become more active during the day;
  • infected animals often move slowly, appear unco-ordinated, fall down, may walk in circles or drag their limbs;
  • bats with rabies often cannot fly;
  • raccoons, skunks or foxes with porcupine quills, or raccoons or foxes with a strong skunk-like odour, may be rabid.

“The public has a crucial role to play in helping us prevent the spread of rabies,” said Doucet. “This is also a good time for pet owners to contact their veterinarian to ensure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date.”

Since May 2014, 30 cases of the disease have been confirmed in raccoons and skunks in southwestern New Brunswick. So far in 2017, three cases have been confirmed in the province, all in the Waweig area of Charlotte County.

The provincial government implemented a rabies control program in 2015 and 2016. A provincial rabies committee was formed to develop a long-term plan to deal with the spread of the disease in the Charlotte County area, and a provincial rabies co-ordinator was hired.

The government will continue the rabies control program in 2017, including distributing oral rabies vaccine bait this summer. The bait is not harmful to humans, domestic pets or livestock. Oral vaccine distribution is effective at preventing the spread of rabies, but residents can also help by ensuring their pets and livestock are vaccinated.

More information about rabies, including a surveillance map of confirmed cases, is available online.