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Animal bites and scratches

Rabies is a fatal disease passed to humans through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. The virus attacks the nervous system and is not curable once symptoms develop.

If you have been bitten or scratched by a domestic animal (e.g. cat or dog) or a wild animal (e.g. bat or raccoon):

  • If there is an animal owner, try to get more information (e.g. owner's name, address and/or phone number).
  • Immediately and thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water, then flush the area (if possible) with water for 15 minutes.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you were bitten, scratched, or exposed to the wild animal's saliva.
  • Contact your health care provider, go to a walk-in clinic, or hospital emergency department.
  • Report the incident to the health unit at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520; or complete the Rabies and Animal Exposure Incident Report and fax the report to our Rabies Program at 705-725-8132.

A public health inspector will follow up with the animal owner and the animal will be placed under an observation period (confined) for 10-14 days (usually in the owner's home). Healthy animals are not removed from their owners. After the confinement period, the public health inspector will also follow up with the person who was bitten or scratched. When bites or scratches involve a wild animal, or an animal that cannot be located, the recommendation for post-exposure vaccination may be discussed.

The health unit investigates every reported animal bite to assess for potential rabies exposures.

When a person is bitten or scratched by a domestic animal (e.g. cat or dog), a public health inspector will follow up with the animal owner to make sure the animal involved does not have rabies. The domestic animal will be observed for 10-14 days (usually by confining at the owner's home). Healthy animals are not taken away from their owners.

If the animal remains healthy and free of rabies symptoms during the confinement period, there is no risk of rabies transmission to the person exposed. The owner must provide proof of current rabies vaccination to the health unit.

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