Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

September 27, 2010 13:00 ET

The CFIA Recognizes World Rabies Day

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 27, 2010) - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) joins partners around the world in commemorating World Rabies Day on September 28. This initiative raises awareness of the effect of the disease on humans and animals and how the disease can be avoided.

"Rabies is preventable, and yet the disease remains a serious health concern in many countries," says Brian Evans, Chief Veterinary Officer of Canada. "Canada is dedicated to working with national and international partners in both the animal and human health communities to stop the spread of rabies."

Every year more than 55 000 people worldwide die from the disease. Using education and awareness, everyone can help control and prevent the disease.

The CFIA Centre of Expertise for Rabies in Ottawa will be marking the day with a symposium to share information and raise global awareness of rabies. Presentations will focus on rabies research and the work that is being carried out at the CFIA.

The CFIA is responsible for controlling the spread of rabies in domestic animals, including livestock. Under Canadian law, rabies is a "federally reportable disease." This means that a person must inform the CFIA if they have (or know about) an animal that is either suspected to have rabies or has been exposed to rabies.

Rabies is a viral disease that can attack the central nervous system of all mammals, including humans. Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal. In Canada, bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks are common transmitters of the disease.

For more information on Canada's approach to controlling rabies, visit www.inspection.gc.ca. For more information on World Rabies Day, visit www.worldrabiesday.org.

BACKGROUNDER

RABIES

Rabies is a viral disease that can attack the central nervous system of all mammals, including humans. Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

In Canada, the animals that are most often infected with rabies (and involved in its transmission) are bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks.

Under Canadian law, rabies is a "federally reportable disease." This means that a person must report information to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) if they are in possession of, caring for, or in control of an animal that is suspected of having rabies, or that has been exposed to rabies.

How rabies is spread

Rabies is usually transmitted when the virus is introduced into the body through a bite wound. Although less likely, the virus can also spread when it comes into contact with a scratch, open wound or mucous membranes. Mucous membranes include those in the mouth, nasal cavity or eyes.

When the virus enters the body, it migrates through the nerves to the brain, where it rapidly multiplies. The virus then moves to the salivary glands and other parts of the body.

The incubation period

The incubation period is the time that it takes for the rabies virus to move from the infection site to the brain and then from the brain to other tissues. With rabies, the incubation period ranges from two weeks to many months. It can depend on a number of factors, including the strain of rabies and the location of the bite. However, it is important to note that an animal can transmit the disease before it shows any signs of illness.

Animal disease signs

Animals with rabies may show a variety of signs. The effects of the disease can be presented differently: "dumb presentation" (acting depressed or tame), "furious presentation" (showing excitement or aggression), or a combination of the two. The presence of abnormal behaviour is the key feature in an animal with rabies, for example:

  • Domestic animals may become depressed and try to hide in isolated places.
  • Wild animals may lose their fear of humans and appear unusually friendly.
  • Wild animals that usually come out only at night may be out during the day.
  • Animals may have paralysis. Areas most commonly affected are the face or neck (which causes abnormal facial expressions or drooling) or the hind legs.
  • Animals may become very excited and aggressive.
  • Periods of excitement may alternate with periods of depression.
  • Animals may attack objects or other animals. They may bite or chew their own limbs.

Rabid animals: what to do

  • Stay away from any animal that is showing abnormal behaviour.
  • Don't handle wild animals, including orphans, even if the animal appears to be healthy.
  • Isolate pets and livestock suspected of having been exposed to rabies. Keep them away from people and animals.
  • Contact the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 or your local CFIA office (found in the blue pages of your telephone directory) if you have possession, care or control of an animal suspected of having rabies or that has been exposed to rabies. This is required by law under the Health of Animals Act.

Preventing human illness

If treatment is given promptly after being exposed to the rabies virus, human illness can be prevented. The following actions are recommended by the World Health Organization:

  • Immediately wash the wound or exposed surface with soap and water.
  • Remove any clothing that may have been contaminated.
  • Seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, rabies can be fatal.

Prevent the spread of rabies

  • Vaccinate pets against rabies, as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Don't let pets roam free.
  • Avoid wild or domestic animals that are behaving strangely.
  • Keep a safe distance from wildlife, even if they look healthy. Do not attempt to raise orphaned wild animals.
  • Teach children to not handle wildlife or pet animals they don't know.

People who work in occupations that bring them into regular contact with animals (such as veterinarians, trappers and park rangers) should protect themselves through pre-exposure vaccination.

Controlling the spread of rabies

In Canada, the CFIA is responsible for controlling the spread of rabies in domestic animals, including livestock. The CFIA will only be involved in diagnosing rabies in wild animals if there is a known exposure with humans or domestic animals.

The CFIA rabies program includes:

  • Investigation of all suspect cases reported in domestic animals and/or human exposure.
  • Diagnostic testing in domestic animals and/or human exposure.
  • Imposing disease control measures on domestic animals exposed to rabies, to prevent contact with humans or other animals.
  • Requiring proof of vaccination against rabies for all cats and dogs over three months-of-age entering Canada.
  • Ongoing research.
  • Licensing of rabies vaccines.

Compensation

There is an agreement between the federal government and Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to provide shared financial assistance to owners of certain domestic livestock species for the loss of animals that are confirmed to have died from rabies. 

For more information visit us at www.inspection.gc.ca

Contact Information

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    Media Relations
    613-773-6600