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Santé Montréal


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Rabies is an infectious, contagious, incurable and fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system of mammals, including humans. Rabies is one of the most serious of the many diseases that can be transmitted to humans, because once the symptoms have appeared, it is always fatal. 

Bites are the main mode of transmission, although consideration should also be given to clawing as a significant means of exposure since the claws of an infected animal may be contaminated by its saliva. Rabies can also be transmitted by contact with an open wound or a mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth) and the saliva, cerebrospinal fluid or nervous tissue of a rabid mammal. 

Source: Web site of the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ)

  • It is estimated that over 50,000 people die of rabies every a year worldwide.
  • Rabies is a major problem in developing countries, where almost all cases of rabies are caused by dog bites. 
  • In Canada, rabies has been a reportable disease since 1925; up to the beginning of 2010, there have been 24 reported cases of death from rabies, 12 of which have occurred in Québec.
  • After racoon rabies arrived in Québec through the Montérégie region in 2006, the Québec government implemented an effective plan to fight its spread. 
  • Most cases of rabies in humans in Canada and the United States are bat-related.

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When to Consult

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Protection and prevention

Target population 

People who are likely to have direct contact with bats and who may be bitten or exposed to the saliva of land mammals.

  • Never touch a bat, dead or alive.
  • Avoid approaching, touching, patting or feeding a wild or domestic animal you do not know, even it if looks harmless.
  • Teach children the above-mentioned preventive measures.
  • Teach children not to provoke animals.
  • Get your pet(s) vaccinated.

If you have been bitten, clawed or licked by an animal suspected of having rabies or have had direct contact with a bat: 

  • wash the wound or exposed area with a lot of soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes; and
  • call Info-Santé at 811 or see a doctor.

Gouvernement du Québec: 

Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux: rabies can be transmitted to humans by a variety of animals, including bats. The pamphlet Watch out! A bat! What if it had rabies...Don't touch me! tells you exactly what you need to know about close encounters with bats. 

Public Health Agency of Canada: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Risk factors

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Help and Resources

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People at Risk

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Dernière mise à jour le : 2018.06.15