A cow located in Elma Ward has tested positive for rabies. This is the third confirmed rabid animal in Perth County since 2015. A skunk and another cow, both in Ellice Ward, tested positive for rabies in April 2016 and in December 2015. “This positive result continues to remind us that rabies is still present in Perth County,” says Dale Lyttle, Senior Public Health Inspector.

Cow and calf Image/Agricultural Research Services
Cow and calf
Image/Agricultural Research Services

Rabies is almost always fatal. The rabies virus can be carried in the saliva of infected mammals, such as dogs, cats, foxes, skunks, raccoons and bats. It is normally spread to humans through a bite, scratch, cut or contact with the moist tissues of the mouth, nose and eyes. “It’s important that residents make sure their dogs and cats, even barn cats, are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations,” urges Lyttle.

The rabid cow was located on a working dairy farm. “The cow was most likely in contact with a rabid wild animal, such as a skunk or fox,” explains Lyttle. The Health Unit is working with the farm operators to investigate potential human exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no published studies that have demonstrated the presence of rabies virus in cows’ milk. Although transmission of rabies virus from consuming unpasteurized milk from an infected animal is theoretically possible, no human has ever been reported to develop rabies via this route. Milk that has been heat pasteurized presents no risk for rabies virus transmission. “This is an important reminder that people should only drink milk that has been pasteurized,” says Lyttle.

The Dairy Farmers of Ontario is working with the producer to manage milk from the farm and to protect the public from any health risks. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is working with the producer and veterinarian to implement a Precautionary Confinement Period (PCP) for the other cows that were in the group with the infected animal.