Optimizing rabies surveillance in wild animals

At the beginning of April, an increase in the number of cases of raccoon rabies was noted in Vermont, including one case recorded 10 km from the border with Quebec.

To prevent the disease from spreading north of the American border, the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) spread more than 46,000 vaccine baits in 17 municipalities of Estrie and Montérégie.

The announcement made by the ministry on April 14 describes an operation carried out over a territory of nearly 660 km2. The manual operation particularly targeted wooded areas, river banks, the edges of agricultural fields and around garbage bins.

It is in this context that a workshop is taking place until May 24 at the University of Montreal organized by Timothée Poisot, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UdeM, bringing together researchers from the Agency. Public Health Canada, MELCCFP, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, United States Department of Agriculture and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (United States) .

Better define areas of uncertainty

Organized with the assistance of postdoctoral student Emily Beasley and Professor Patrick Leighton, from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, this meeting aims to “harmonize data in order to facilitate the sharing of information between the different partners, as well as vaccination models, to possibly develop dashboards that will allow us to monitor vaccination efforts,” explains Timothée Poisot.

According to the man who is also a researcher at the Quebec Biodiversity Science Center, part of the current problem relates to the planning and monitoring of interventions, which are not the same between Quebec, Ontario, Canadian and American partners.

“The monitoring models are different so the data is not always comparable with each other,” he says. All vaccination strategies are based on modeling, but we lack a better understanding of uncertainty to better harmonize surveillance and vaccination efforts.”

This means that when scientists create a model, it produces results that give an idea of ​​the risk of rabies spreading in a given area. “However, it only takes one case to occur for the virus to spread, and we want to be able to better adapt our models to better target these areas of uncertainty,” says Timothée Poisot.

Prevent raccoon rabies from going north

Raccoon rabies is the least common among wild animals in Canada.

Last year in Quebec, no cases were detected out of 1,200 specimens captured. Also, the cases recently recorded in Vermont raise fears that raccoon rabies will one day cross the Quebec border.

“Hence the importance of better harmonizing our surveillance efforts,” concludes Timothée Poisot.

What to do if you have been bitten or scratched by an animal?

Rabies is a contagious and fatal disease affecting all mammals. It can therefore be transmitted from an infected animal to humans. In addition to raccoon rabies, other variants of rabies circulate in Quebec, notably among bats and, in northern Quebec, among foxes. Caution is therefore required at all times and with all species of mammals.

Rabies can be avoided by adopting safe behaviors:

  • If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal or have come into contact with its saliva, clean the wound with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes even if the wound appears minor. Contact Info-Santé 811 quickly to obtain appropriate medical follow-up.
  • Never approach an unknown animal, wild or domestic, even if it appears harmless.
  • Never touch the carcass of a wild animal with your bare hands.
  • Take steps to avoid attracting wildlife to your property (for example, store your outdoor trash cans out of reach of animals and avoid feeding pets outside).
  • Report raccoons, skunks and foxes in the Estrie and Montérégie regions that appear sick, disoriented, abnormally aggressive, paralyzed or found dead by calling 1 877 346-6763 or by filling out the report form .

Source: Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks.

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