January 28, 2008 / 7:35 PM / in 12 years

Rabies outbreak discovered in Toronto area

TORONTO (Reuters) - A rabies alert has been sent across Canada after a puppy sold at a Toronto-area flea market tested positive for the fatal disease, health officials said on Monday.

They said it was the first outbreak of rabies in the Toronto area in more than 20 years.

Toronto health officials said the eight-week-old border collie, which has died, was from a group of 12 puppies at the market. The other 11 dogs are under quarantine.

The mother of the border collie, from a farm in Eastern Ontario, has also died after contacting the virus from a rabid skunk.

“I think the situation is relatively well contained and it’s not something that is easily transmissible,” said Howard Shapiro, associate medical officer of health at Toronto Public Health.

“Obviously we are taking this matter very seriously. We are really trying our best to make sure that anybody who has been in contact with those dogs call their local health departments.”

Shapiro said at least 80 Toronto-area people, who came in contact with the animals, have had to get rabies shots. More than 900 people have contacted a hotline set up since the disease was found in one of the animals.

The virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and can lie undetected for up to 10 days. It can be spread through a bite, cut or scratch, or if the saliva comes in contact with the mouth, nose or eyes.

Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Peter Galloway

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