FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is implementing a heightened surveillance plan for rabies in Charlotte County, including the addition of a surveillance report and a provincial rabies committee.

“Due to an increasing number of racoon variant rabies cases in recent months in the area, we are taking action by implementing new measures and initiatives to help assess and deal with the matter in Charlotte County,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet.

The provincial rabies committee has been formed to address immediate concerns and develop a long-term action plan. The committee consists of representatives of the following stakeholders:

  • Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries;
  • Department of Health;
  • Department of Natural Resources;
  • New Brunswick SPCA; and
  • New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association.

Since May 2014, 12 cases of the disease have been confirmed in raccoons and skunks in Charlotte County.

Rabies is a viral disease that can affect all mammals, including humans. It is usually transmitted through bite wounds, but can also be transmitted if saliva from infected animals enters the body through cuts in the skin or contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.

When the rabies virus enters the body of an animal or a human, it multiplies in the vicinity of the bite wound and spreads to the spinal cord and brain. It can take weeks or months for the virus to reach the brain, and when it does it is almost always fatal.

Education and awareness are the best ways to prevent exposure to rabies.

Protect yourself and your loved ones

  • Enjoy wildlife from a distance. Do not put yourself at risk of a scratch or a bite from a wild animal.
  • Never touch a wild animal even if it appears to be injured.
  • Do not move wild animals from one geographic location to another as this practice may spread the rabies virus.
  • Take steps to keep your property less enticing to wild animals. This may include keeping your garbage and compost bins secured, and ensuring food (including pet food) is not left outside.
  • Talk to your children about respecting domestic and wild animals.
  • Avoid petting domestic animals that you do not know.
  • If you have been bitten or scratched by a wild or domestic animal, cleanse the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water for about 15 minutes. Then seek immediate medical attention.
  • Consider getting a rabies vaccination if you are regularly exposed to domestic and wild animals in your line of work.
  • Protect your pets: ensure their vaccinations against rabies are up to date. If you are unsure about your pet’s current protection, talk to your veterinarian.
  • Do not allow your dog or cat to go outside without supervision, especially at night.
  • If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, contact your veterinarian right away.

The public plays an important role in preventing the spread of rabies. If you live in Charlotte County and see an animal exhibiting signs that could be consistent with rabies, call 811. A Telecare operator will ask a series of questions and provide instructions on any action to be taken if required.

Watch for the following unusual behaviours:

  • Animals that are normally docile may become aggressive.
  • Wild animals such as raccoons and skunks, that are normally most active at night, may become more active during the day.
  • Wild animals that are normally less active during subfreezing temperatures may become more active.
  • Rabies-infected animals often move slowly, appear uncoordinated, fall down, may have a limp or may drag one of their legs.
  • Bats with rabies often cannot fly.
  • Racoons, skunks or foxes with porcupine quills, or raccoons or foxes that smell like skunks could also be rabid.

Surveillance and assistance from the public will assist the province in assessing the optimal control measures to prevent further spreading of the disease. More information on rabies, including a surveillance map of confirmed cases, is available online.