Surveillance of rabies

Learn how rabies is monitored.

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Number of cases of rabies in Canada

Human rabies is rare in Canada. This is largely due to excellent prevention and control programs.

Since reporting began in 1924, a total of 25 people in six provinces have died of rabies in Canada:

  • Quebec (12)
  • Ontario (7)
  • Alberta (2)
  • Saskatchewan (2)
  • Nova Scotia (1)
  • British Columbia (1)

The most recent cases involved single deaths in:

  • Ontario in 2012 (exposure was outside of Canada)
  • Alberta in 2007 (exposure was in Canada to a rabid bat)
  • British Columbia in 2003 (exposure was in Canada to a rabid bat)
  • Quebec in 2000 (exposure was in Canada to a rabid bat)

Rabies is established in certain populations of Canadian wildlife. These can spillover to domestic (livestock and pet) animals. Since 2000, the number of reported rabies-positive animals has declined partly because of control programs. There were:

  • 670 rabies-positive animals reported in 2000
  • 116 rabies-positive animals reported in 2013
  • 92 rabies-positive animals reported in 2014
  • 151 rabies-positive animals reported in 2015
  • 392 rabies-positive animals reported in 2016Footnote *

Between 2014 and 2016, the breakdown of confirmed rabies cases in animals, by group, was:

  • 65% in terrestrial (land) wildlife, of which
    • 49% were from raccoons
    • 39% skunks
    • 11% red and arctic fox
  • 28% in bats
  • 3% in livestock
    • cows accounted for 61% of all livestock with rabies
  • 4% in pets (dogs and cats)

In recent years, reported rabies infections have been found primarily in:

  • bats in many regions of the country
  • foxes in the North (Quebec, Nunavut, Northwest Territories)
  • skunks in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario
  • raccoons in the east (Ontario, with some cases in New Brunswick and Quebec)

Number of cases of rabies around the world

Rabies is a serious public health problem in many Asian and African countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 60,000 human deaths from rabies each year in Asia and Africa.

According to WHO:

  • domestic dogs transmit the rabies virus in more than 99% of human cases
  • 40% of cases occur in children under 15 years of age

For more information, consult the WHO's map of areas to see where rabies transmission occurs.

How Canada monitors rabies

Rabies in humans is a nationally notifiable disease and is reported by all provinces and territories.

Cases are reported to:

  • provincial or territorial departments of health
  • the federal government, if they meet the national case definition

Rabies in humans is reported federally through the Canadian Notifiable Disease Surveillance System.

In Canada, rabies in animals is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act, and all suspected cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Testing of animals involved in human exposure incidents is conducted at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A summary of the positive results shown by province and type of animal is posted on their website.

Each province or territory conducts surveillance and testing of suspect rabid animals, and is the best source of information on rabies in your area.

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