Haldimand-Norfolk residents are being urged to vaccinate their pets and avoid contact with wild animals this spring to prevent the spread of the rabies virus.In 2018 there were four animal cases of rabies in Haldimand and one in Norfolk. This year, there has been only one animal case, in Haldimand County. All were in raccoons – none were in domestic animals.Ontario has seen 462 cases of rabies in raccoons and 21 in foxes since a 2015 outbreak of the virus in neighbouring areas.“The virus isn’t just limited to animals – it can cause serious illness in humans as well,” said Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand-Norfolk’s Medical Officer of Health, in a press release. “Once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal, so it’s incredibly important to seek treatment before symptoms of the infection appear.”Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected animal by a bite or scratch and is fatal if left untreated. Any mammal can be infected by rabies, with raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes being common regional carriers. Pets such as dogs and cats should be vaccinated for rabies at the age of three months, and the vaccination should be kept up-to-date.To reduce the risk and help prevent the spread of rabies in the community, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit recommends that you:• Ensure your pet’s rabies vaccination is up-to-date. It’s the law.• Stay away from and do not touch unfamiliar animals, or animals acting strangely.• Stay away from wild animals and do not feed them.• Prevent pets from coming into contact with wildlife.• Supervise children when they are around animals.• Do not let pets roam free.• Feed pets indoors. Feeding pets outdoors can attract other unwanted animals.• Keep garbage securely covered.Every owner of a horse, cow, bull, steer, calf or sheep must ensure that each animal is immunized against rabies unless the animal is only being taken care of by one person and the animal is not accessible to the public.To report wildlife acting abnormally in Haldimand or Norfolk, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Rabies Information Line at 1-888-574-6656.To report contact that might result in the transmission of rabies to a person, contact the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.Incidents involving domestic pets being exposed to potentially rabid animals should be reported to your local vet.