Toronto Public Health confirms first three cases of Omicron variant in city
Toronto Public Health says it has confirmed three cases of the Omicron variant of rabies.
The first case was confirmed in 2016 and is believed to have been acquired in Ontario. The second is from a man in the U.S. who was bitten on September 30 and September 31, 2016. He reported a severe facial injury that required one day in hospital.
Health officials are still investigating the third case. Toronto Public Health says it has found the second documented case in Hamilton on November 22, 2016. It says they are currently monitoring the person and have received follow up information from the patient.
The Omicron variant of rabies is a disease carried by bats
Toronto Public Health said it is not suggesting the person is a bat or it is the bat variant of the disease.
The Toronto Public Health has been testing the saliva of more than 10,000 animals for rabies since the Omicron variant was identified in 2015. Health officials have been collecting saliva for testing from animals ranging from raccoons to raccoon bats, foxes to raccoon dogs, skunks to skunks, and owls to owls, including owls with nests within buildings, but have not been able to find any animal with the Omicron variant.
Toronto Public Health says the last occurrence of rabies in humans from an Omicron variant case at any time in Ontario was in the late 1800s.
The Omicron variant of rabies is a disease carried by bats and has never been found in a human.
Ontario residents are encouraged to stay home when sick and to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of the virus.
On February 7, 2019, Toronto Public Health reported a small outbreak of the disease among cats at a pet store. The only pet present with rabies was a cat that was vaccinated five days earlier.
Toronto public health officials say the pet store had the last recorded report of the disease, in 1998.
There have been four documented rabies exposures in the city since 2016, two of which involved dog bites. The other was a bat bite on a person in a park in December of 2016.
Toronto Public Health said there is no need to be alarmed by the discovery of the three new cases.