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Six raccoons have tested positive for rabies in Hamilton, Ont.

Hand-out/ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF VETERINAR

A Toronto police officer has been taken to hospital after he was bitten by a sick raccoon.

Police received a call at 12:18 p.m. Monday from a store owner for a raccoon that "appeared to be in distress and possibly blind," hanging around a downtown store, said Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook.

She said two officers showed up and tried to corral the raccoon, which is when one officer was bitten in the hand.

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The officer was taken to hospital to be treated for a minor injury, Douglas-Cook said, but is otherwise fine.

"Obviously at this point there are concerns about rabies," she said.

Raccoon rabies had been eliminated in Ontario for more than a decade until one tested positive in Hamilton in early December.

Since then, there have been nine other cases in the area and the province's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has spread more than 200,000 rabies vaccines in the Hamilton region in an attempt to stem the outbreak.

The re-emergence of rabies only came to light after two dogs got into a fight with a sick raccoon in the back of a Hamilton Animal Services van. The raccoon was euthanized and tests revealed the first rabies case in raccoons since 2005.

Douglas-Cook said Toronto's Animal Services division showed up shortly after the officers arrived and captured the animal. Neither the city's Animal Services or Toronto Public Health could be immediately reached for comment.

There has also been an outbreak in distemper in raccoons in southwestern Ontario, according to the ministry. That illness is also fatal and presents similar symptoms as rabies, but is not transferable to humans.

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