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Rabies scourge not over yet

By Rick Pusiak A rabies outbreak in the Sudbury region is subsiding, but it has yet to be declared officially over. The local health unit is monitoring the situation for any signs of a second surge.
By Rick Pusiak

A rabies outbreak in the Sudbury region is subsiding, but it has yet to be declared officially over.

The local health unit is monitoring the situation for any signs of a second surge.

Public health inspector Holly Brown said this is the time of year when fox pups are born and it remains to seen whether any of them exhibit symptoms of the virus.

Red foxes have been the main carriers of the disease in this part of the province.

The Sudbury health unit has documented 44 positive rabies cases so far this year. Forty-six people have been treated. All survived.

The rabies treatment number is high for Sudbury for any given year but the number really shot up in February after a pet dog in Birkdale Village tested positive and had to be destroyed.

Â?ChopperÂ?, a husky-chow mix, had been tied outside a residence and was bitten on the nose by a fox.

Family members noticed their pet was frothing at the mouth, figured the dog was sick from being outside overnight and brought the pet indoors.

Â?ChopperÂ? was the sixth rabies case of the year and had not been vaccinated for the virus.

Some 15 people received post-exposure treatment as a result of that one case.

Â?Because itÂ?s a domestic animal there are a lot of contacts with that animal,Â? said Brown. Â?With a fox you might have one contact, maybe two.Â?

Health unit staff does a followup with people who have undergone post-exposure treatment.

They check on whether there was any adverse reaction and to make sure the complete treatment regimen was followed.

Â?ItÂ?s no sense them doing four shots and missing the fifth shot because really the purpose is to make sure theyÂ?re fully vaccinated,Â? said Brown.

Rabies shots for pets are mandated by provincial law in this community and other areas of Ontario. Charges can and will be laid if an animal is found to be not vaccinated.

The last positive rabies case in the Sudbury area was on May 28.

Police found a dead fox in Walden, bagged it and brought it in for testing.

On May 21 a rabid cow was located in Whitefish. The farm herd it came from is under quarantine.

The case before that involved a fox on Moonlight Beach May 3.

Â?We are seeing big gaps,Â? said Brown. Â?ThereÂ?s quite a few submissions in between that are coming back negative. So it is definitely slowing down but weÂ?re still erring on the side of caution right now.Â?

There was a report last week about a fox attacking a dog in its doghouse.

The pet hadnÂ?t been vaccinated and was put down as a precaution.

Some sort of animal that may have been a rabid fox also attacked a cat.

The rabies epidemic was first tracked in March 2001 in Onaping Lake.

The virus worked its way into Chelmsford, took a big jump to the Noelville-Monetville area before finally being reported in Sudbury this past winter.

Individuals who fear they have been exposed to rabies should consult with a physician or the health unit (522-9200).

Post-exposure treatment involves five needles of vaccine over a one-month period.

Patients initially get one vaccine shot and, based on their body weight, a predetermined quantity of a rabies immune globulin a blood product that provides an immediate boost to the immune system.

Left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal in humans but if vaccination is administered before the virus enters the nervous system the body can fight it.