Above: In North America, bats are the main vector for the transmission of rabies to humans (Ivan Kuzmin, iStockphoto)

Do you live in close contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife? If yes, you’re at risk of catching zoonotic diseases. Those are infectious diseases transferred from animals to humans. In Canada, there has been a recent increase in cases of rabies, a well-known zoonotic disease.

Can humans infect pets or other animals with diseases?

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Because of its harmful effect on the brain, rabies infection often causes abnormal behaviour. Common symptoms of rabies include erratic behaviour, hydrophobia (fear of water), and frothing at the mouth.

How is rabies transmitted? How do vaccines control rabies infections?

Before French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed the rabies vaccine in 1885, a rabies infection was almost always fatal.

Why are people in North America most likely to get rabies from a bat? In many other countries, they’re more likely to get rabies from a dog.

In Canada and the United States, bats are the main vectors of rabies transmission to humans. However, other animals can also transmit the disease, and others like it. In North America, rabies infections are most commonly found in foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and bats. Most rabies outbreaks in Canada are in southern Ontario.

What factors affect the distribution and detection of rabies? Can outbreaks of rabies be predicted and prevented?

Learn More!

About rabies and other zoonotic diseases:

Healthy Pets Healthy People (2015)
Center for Disease Control

Guidance Document for the Management of Suspected Rabies Exposures (2013)
Ministry of Health and Long-term Care

Surviving rabies 100 years ago (2013)
D. Wendt, Smithsonian

Rabies in Canada - history, epidemiology, and control (1988)
R. C. Rosatte, The Canadian Veterinary Journal

Rabies background and technical information
New Jersey Department of Health

Rabies in Canada
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Animal transmitted diseases
City of Ottawa

About recent rabies outbreaks in Canada:

Bat in Peterborough tests positive for rabies (2016)
The Peterborough Examiner

How rabies is suddenly on the rise in Canada (2016)
T. Hopper, The National Post

Rabies: what to know about the virus in Canada (2015)
T. T. Do, CBC

Toronto sees first case of rabies in more than 8 years (2012)
T. Van Alphen, The Toronto Star

About scientific research on rabies:

Heather Auld


My name is Heather, and I am a PhD student in the Biology Department at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada where I study how an individual's environment influences their behaviour. Most of my research is done in Trinidad, The West Indies, but I love to travel to all different kinds of ecosystems.

I also work on CurioCity as a Science Editor and to help bring you the most interesting stories and breakthroughs happening in science! I volunteer with Let's Talk Science as an outreach volunteer in Ottawa and rural Ontario. 

I love to observe and photograph the amazing animals and landscapes from around the world. 

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