Types of Rabies Exposures
Warm blooded animals are known to be able to carry and transmit the rabies virus. The virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. A person may become exposed to the rabies virus if they come in contact with an infected warm-blooded animal. In Ontario, the most common animals to carry the rabies virus are bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes.
Petting an animal, handling its blood, urine or feces is not considered to be an exposure. According to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care1, rabies exposures can occur in the following ways:
A bite occurs when there is penetration of the skin by teeth.
A non-bite occurs when there is a scratch, abrasion or cut on the skin or mucus membrane that comes in contact with saliva or other potentially infectious material from a warm blooded animal.
A bat exposure occurs when a bat bites or scratches a person, or if there is direct contact with a bat (the bat touches or lands on a person) and the following cannot be eliminated:
- A bite or scratch, or saliva from a live bat entered an open wound or mucus membrane.
Please contact the Grey Bruce Health Unit to discuss potential bat exposures.
Information for Animal Owners
If your animal has bitten someone, a Public Health Inspector will require you to isolate your pet for a confinement period to ensure it was not infectious with rabies at the time of the incident. Do not euthanize or vaccinate your animal during the confinement period. For more information, refer to the rules for Rabies Confinement.
Animal Exposure Investigations and Confinement Period
The Grey Bruce Health Unit investigates incidences of human exposure to animals with the potential to transmit rabies (e.g., animal bites or scratches) to determine the risk of exposure to rabies and if there is a need for treatment (e.g., vaccine).
Information about Animal Exposures: If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal, please follow the steps below:
Step 1: Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water.
Step 2: Seek medical attention (see a doctor) as soon as possible.
Step 3: Call and report the animal bite / scratch incident to the Grey Bruce Health Unit. If you seek medical attention, they will ask you to complete an Animal Exposure Report. Complete the form, save it fax to 519-376-0980. The form will not automatically save and send.
Step 4: If you are concerned about the animal’s behaviour (e.g., aggression), please contact your local animal control officer at your local municipality.
A Public Health Inspector will contact you regarding the animal exposure investigation. The investigation may vary depending on the nature of the exposure, type of animal, and circumstances surrounding the incident. The animal may need to undergo a confinement period or be sent to the lab to test for the rabies virus:
- Confinement period is an observation period to monitor the animal for signs and symptoms or rabies. If the animal stays healthy during this period, the animal did not have rabies in its saliva at the time of the incident. This means that the person who was bitten or scratched will not need rabies vaccine. If the animal was infectious with rabies at the time of the incident, it would become ill and die within the confinement period.
- Lab testing involves sending the animal’s brain to a lab to test for the rabies virus. The animal must be dead to send the brain to the lab. Rabies testing usually involves wild animals but can also be done on domestic animals. If the animal dies within the confinement period, or is suspected of rabies, then the animal will be sent for rabies testing. If the results come back positive for rabies, the person exposed will receive rabies vaccine.