By Rick Pusiak
At least 15 people in Birkdale Village are undergoing rabies post-exposure treatment after a pet dog in the neighbourhood contracted the virus.
Chopper was put down Feb. 10. The dog was tied outside a residence in Minnow Lake about two weeks ago, had a run-in with a fox and was bitten on the nose.
On the morning of Feb. 9 family members noticed their pet was frothing at the mouth. The owners figured the husky-chow mix was sick from being outside overnight and brought the pet indoors.
Chopper got sicker and sicker and was taken to a veterinarian in Lively. The dog was suffering from hind end paralysis and was destroyed.
The dead pet was sent for testing and within 24 hours word came back it was positive for rabies.
Manager of environmental health at the Sudbury and District Health Unit, Tim Worton, says Chopper had not been vaccinated for the virus.
Worton told Northern Life seven of the people being treated are from one family. Four are from another family whose dog fought with Chopper while the husky-chow was sick.
The second dog is under quarantine by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Health unit officials held a special meeting at Adamsdale Public School last night (Tuesday) for Birkdale Village and area residents who either fear they may have been exposed to rabies or just need information.
Two cats thought to have been infected were put down on the weekend and sent for testing. The results came back negative.
Health unit officials also went door to door through Birkdale Village last week asking people to come forward if they or their pets had been in contact with Chopper.
An animal can transmit the rabies virus three to seven days prior to exhibiting symptoms of illness.
"This whole thing is preventable," stressed Worton.
"Get your animal its shots, get those rabies shots. Because in this case here, I mean we did not have to go through all this...there's lots of people out there who don't have their animals vaccinated."
Rabies shots are mandated by provincial law in this area. Charges can and will be laid if an animal is found to be not vaccinated.
"It's going to be zero tolerance from this point on," said Worton.
A rabies epidemic started in March of last year in Onaping Lake. It worked its way into Chelmsford, took a big jump to the Noelville-Monetville area before finally being reported in Sudbury in the last little while.
Late on the afternoon of Feb. 11 a suspicious fox was seen in the area of South Bay Road. Around 11 pm a fox chased a vehicle on Long Lake Road at Countryside Road.
Worton strongly suggests people not let their pets run loose.
He also advises everyone to stay away from wild animals, don't feed foxes, don't leave dog food outdoors and keep garbage covered.
Individuals who fear they have been exposed to rabies should consult with a physician or the health unit (705-522-9200).
The people in Birkdale Village receiving post-exposure treatment will get five needles of vaccine over a period of a month.
It is an expensive procedure, about $1,000 to $2,000 per person for the whole series. The cost is covered by the province.