Health unit warns of bacterial outbreak amongst Long Point’s muskrats

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is warning the public about an outbreak of rabbit fever that has been detected in the Long Point area. The health unit says there has been a significant outbreak of the infectious bacteria in the muskrat population of southwest Norfolk. File photo/Postmedia Network

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Add to the list of health-care woes in Norfolk an outbreak of rabbit fever in Long Point.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit issued an alert about the contagious outbreak on May 11. The latest aggressive pathogen has been detected in the muskrat population of southwest Norfolk.

Rabbit fever is caused by tularemia bacteria. The bacteria is carried by deer flies and ticks and can sicken humans and animals such as muskrats, rabbits and beavers. In people, the bacteria typically attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, and lungs, the health unit said in a news release.

Symptoms include the sudden onset of a high fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and nausea.

“There were four human cases reported across Ontario between 2007 and 2017,” the health unit says. “With treatment, death is rare.”

Infection is possible after handling a contaminated animal, ingesting contaminated food or water, being bitten or licked by an infected insect or animal, or inhaling contaminated water droplets from contaminated soil.

The health unit is monitoring the situation at Long Point and is working with the Ministry of Health and other agencies to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect the public.

The health unit recommends the following measures to protect yourself and your family:

  • Stay away from wild animals – living or dead.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after activities such as paddling and being in contact with surface water in the affected area.
  • Keep children away from wild animals. This includes while preparing game for meals.
  • Wear rubber gloves when preparing wild animals for meals. Wash hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Thoroughly cook game prior to eating.
  • Use insect repellent and wear long pants and sleeves when outdoors to prevent tick bites.
  • Check yourself, children and pets for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Keep dogs on a leash while in these areas.

If you think you may have contracted tularemia, contact your primary health-care provider. More information is available at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit website at .