Toronto Public Health (TPH) is advising residents to avoid physical contact with raccoons and other wild animals due to a “significant increase” in the number of sick and injured raccoons around the city.
The city’s health unit said in a Thursday press release that they have received 88 reports of injuries caused by raccoons so far in 2023, a 117 per cent increase compared to the five-year average between 2018 and 2022. More than 80 per cent of the individuals bitten or scratched by raccoons received post-exposure prophylaxis treatment due to concerns about rabies transmission, they said.
Reported raccoon bites and scratches are often the result of avoidable interactions such as feeding or petting the animals, TPH continued in the press release.
Help protect kids from animal bites by teaching them wildlife safety tips:— Toronto Public Health (@TOPublicHealth) June 8, 2023
✅ They may look cute – but they are not pets
✅ Don't touch or go near wild animals
✅ Don't feed wild animals
Get more tips to prevent #rabies: https://t.co/lJ7vobD7Bb#EndRabiesNow pic.twitter.com/M7yHft1AoK
While the risk of rabies is low in Toronto, the disease can be fatal if left untreated. Public health is advising anyone who is bitten or scratched by a raccoon or other mammal, it’s best to wash the wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes, apply an antiseptic to the wound, and immediately seek medical attention.
As well, TPH said it is of utmost importance that residents do not interact with wildlife, and protect their pets with rabies vaccinations.
More information about the City of Toronto’s raccoon response can be found online.