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CRITTER CAUTION

- Area Residents Encouraged to Watch Out for Animals – Both Wild and Domestic – That Can Spread Rabies -

With more people out and about enjoying Mother Nature this summer, local residents are being asked to heed a variation on the usual ‘fight the bite’ advice.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging people to reduce their exposure to animals that could bite or spread rabies. This word of warning includes wild animals, as well as dogs, cats and other pets.

“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.”

When seeing an animal in the wild, Azad recommends not to pet or approach it. “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.”

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 should also 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.

Last year, the Health Unit investigated a total of 514 animal bite cases in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Typically, when temperatures rise, so do the number of animal bites in the area, Azad notes.

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. Health Unit staff will provide rabies vaccine for the person, 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.

For media inquiries, contact:

Md Azad, Public Health Inspector, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100, ext. 1494,

or Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569, ext. 2222

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