NEWS
01/07/2016 16:37 EST | Updated 01/07/2017 00:12 EST

Cow tests positive for the Arctic fox strain of rabies in southern Ontario

PERTH, Ont. — Health authorities in Perth County, Ont., say a local cow has tested positive for the Arctic fox strain of rabies.

Officials with Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs say it's the first time the strain has surfaced in the southern part of the province since 2012.

But lead veterinarian Maureen Anderson says the test result is not too alarming, since the last documented cases were also in Perth and a neighbouring county.

She says it's not unheard of for a rabies strain to resurface after being dormant for some time.

Anderson says animals who came into contact with the affected calf have been placed in confinement and there are no other suspected rabies cases in the area at the moment.

Both Anderson and the Perth health unit say this case is unrelated to a recent outbreak of raccoon-strain rabies in Hamilton, where a dozen raccoons have tested positive since December, marking the first time since 2005 that the strain has appeared in the province.

Anderson says fox-strain rabies is still active in northern Ontario, adding that vaccination efforts have been focused on other parts of the province because of their higher population density.

Still, the fact that a new case has been identified in Perth, she said, is not entirely unexpected.

"It's not altogether surprising that we found another case in this same area because we knew it was there just a couple of years ago," Anderson said. "We were hoping that it was actually completely gone, but not unheard of that there may have been a small pocket that has now sort of re-emerged and spilled over into the domestic population."

Anderson said the finding would have been more alarming if it had surfaced in an area where the strain was believed to have been fully eradicated.

The Perth health unit said the new case is a reminder of the importance of vaccinating all domestic pets and wildlife against all strains of rabies.

Anderson explained that the various strains are named for the animal that's best optimized to carry them, but said any mammal can be susceptible to any form of rabies if exposed.

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has launched an extensive vaccination program in a bit to quell the raccoon rabies outbreak in Hamilton. Officials have said that 220,000 baits have been dropped in the area in recent weeks.

Chris Davies, head of Wildlife Research, said the ministry will be enhancing their surveillance of the wildlife in the Perth area but are not planning to drop baits at this time.

The Canadian Press