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Do I need a rabies shot if I live in Canada?

Do I need a rabies shot if I live in Canada?
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You can catch rabies in Canada, but do you need a shot?

If you have been bitten by an animal in an area where rabies is endemic, seek immediate medical attention even if you have been vaccinated.

All mammals – including humans – are susceptible to the fatal disease rabies. Cases of rabies are found in wild and domestic animals in Canada.

How is rabies transmitted?

The virus that causes rabies is transmitted via saliva, following a bite by an infected animal. The virus spreads through the bloodstream, incubating in the spinal cord before infecting the brain.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

A wound that is infected with rabies may tingle and some patients experience weakness, a headache and fever. If this applies to you, seek medical help right away. As the rabies infection progresses, there may be muscle spasms. Patients may also experience anxiety and hallucinations, as well as a fear of water and drinking (hydrophobia). Death from respiratory failure is the usual outcome once these neurological symptoms emerge.

Can you catch rabies if an animal licks you?

If an animal infected with rabies licks you on broken skin or on a mucous membrane, you could potentially contract rabies.

What animals in Canada carry rabies?

All mammals can carry rabies, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the most common rabies transmitters in Canada are bats, skunks and foxes.

Is there a vaccine against rabies?

There is a vaccine against rabies. You can learn more about it on our rabies vaccine page.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to rabies?

You need to assume that any mammal bite could expose you to rabies. So, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Then seek immediate medical attention, even if you have been vaccinated against rabies. A healthcare professional can assess your risk and may recommend post-exposure vaccine. This needs to be administered within a couple of days of the bite, and it needs to be given in several doses. You will need a post-exposure vaccine even if you have had the pre-exposure vaccine.

Should I get a rabies shot for day-to-day life in Canada?

The chances of the average Canadian contracting rabies is very low. There are very few cases in people in Canada, so a rabies vaccine is probably not needed. But if you are at risk of animal bites, your health advisor might recommend a pre-exposure vaccine against rabies because the disease is so very dangerous. We offer vaccination against rabies at our travel health clinics.

How can I avoid being exposed to rabies?

You can avoid exposure to rabies by avoiding contact with animals, particularly those displaying unusual behaviour – for example, a downed bat. Note that bat bites can be tiny and may go un-noticed. If you handle a sick bat, to be on the safe side you should assume exposure to rabies.

Keep your dogs and cats up to date with their rabies shots to ensure they don’t get infected and then infect you.

Protect your children by encouraging them to let you know immediately if they are bitten by an animal.

How do I make an appointment for travel vaccinations in Edmonton?

Canadian Travel Clinics can offer same-day vaccinations at our clinics. Make an appointment online right now.