KAWARTHA LAKES- Residents are being encouraged to heed a variation on the usual “fight the bite” advice.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says with the hot summer months more people are outdoors and at risk of being bitten by a rabid animal. This word of warning includes wild animals, as well as dogs, cats and other pets that could spread rabies. “This summer, more people are visiting cottages and campgrounds, or exploring parks and other natural areas where they can encounter animals,” says Md Azad, a Public Health Inspector with the HKPR District Health Unit. “We encourage people to be careful around wild animals and pets, because one simple bite or scratch can put them at risk of serious injury and potential exposure to rabies.”
Last year, the Health Unit investigated a total of 514 animal bite cases in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
Rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus. It is fatal if left untreated in humans. The Health Unit must be notified any time an animal bite/scratching incident takes place. Public Health Inspectors investigate each incident to determine if there is a risk of rabies to the person. If a domestic animal is involved, it is quarantined for a 10-day period to confirm that it was not sick with rabies when it bit or scratched the victim.
Azad says you should not to pet or approach an animal you see in the wild. “People, especially children, will see an animal, think it’s cute, and not think twice about getting near it,” he says. “This is not advisable, and often it is better to just enjoy animals from a distance. If a wild animal is growling or showing aggressive behavior, back away slowly to gain distance from the animal. Never turn around and run. Avoid direct eye contact with the animal, as it is a sign of dominance that may provoke some animals to attack.”
But it’s not only wild animals they are warning about, domestic pets should also be approached with caution, especially if it’s an unfamiliar animal. “Ensure you have permission and full attention of the owner before approaching a pet,” Azad says. “Even if you are just being kind or well-meaning by petting or touching an animal, your actions can be misinterpreted by a dog or cat, which could scratch, nip or bite you.”
Pet owners are also being asked to keep their animals under control using a leash, and discourage them from running free unless they are in a designated dog park. This can prevent the pet from potentially being exposed to rabies from a wild animal. “Getting pets vaccinated against rabies is also very important to protect the health of your four-footed friends and your family members,” Azad adds.
Health Unit staff will provide rabies vaccine for anyone who’s been bitten by a wild animal if deemed necessary by a health care professional. For more information, contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.