Durham County gets first two rabies cases since 2011

mschultz@newsobserver.comFebruary 5, 2013 

  • More information Rabies cases • 6,153 cases of rabies were reported in the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico in 2010. • 92 percent of those cases involved wild animals such as raccoons (36.5 percent), skunks (23.5 percent), bats (23.2 percent) and foxes (7 percent). • 8 percent of rabies cases in 2010 were attributed to domestic species such as cats and dogs. Sources: Durham County Sheriff’s Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

— The Durham County Sheriff’s Office is asking residents to make sure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date after the county’s first two confirmed cases since 2011.

On Jan. 29 a woman in the 2300 block of Strawberry Lane found a dead raccoon in her front yard. An officer determined her dog had probably killed it, and the raccoon was sent to the state Laboratory of Public Health, where it tested positive for rabies.

On Feb. 2, a man in the 2300 block of Alabama Avenue found a dead raccoon in his yard. It also had rabies, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.

Durham County had no confirmed rabies cases in 2012 after sending 109 specimens for testing, Capt Will Oakley said.

That doesn’t mean there was no rabies in the county, he said. The county only tests animals it thinks may have come in contact with people or other animals.

Durham County had four confirmed cases in 2011 – one bat and three raccoons – and four in 2010 – a cat, horse, fox and skunk, according to state statistics.

The two confirmed cases this year were among 10 animals sent for testing so far, Oakley said.

State law requires any dog, cat, or ferret 4 months and older to be vaccinated. Animals that come in contact with a suspected rabid animal and are current on their vaccine must be revaccinated within five days, under state law. Animals exposed to a confimed rabid animal that are not current on their vaccines must be quarantined for six months at the owner’s expense or euthanized.

“This is why we encourage people to keep their pets current on the rabies vaccine,” Lt. Brendan Hartigan of the sheriff’s Animal Services Division said in a release. “You never know if your dog or cat might encounter a wild animal that’s infected with rabies, and the only way to truly protect them from infection is to ensure they’re vaccinated.”

The state lab tests 4,000 to 5,000 animals a year, said state public health veterinarian Dr. Carl Williams. Once the specimen arrives, it usually can get the test result within a day, he said.

Different species have different results, but generally 40 to 45 percent of the raccoons sent for testing have rabies, Williams said. The percentage is lower for foxes and higher for skunks, he said.

The two rabid raccoons in Durham were found in households with a total of two dogs and one cat, all current on their rabies vaccines, Oakley said. In one case a person may have touched the raccoon or dog and may have begun post-exposure treatment, Oakley said.

The Animal Services Division, at 3005 Glenn Road in Durham, offers one-year rabies vaccines every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. for $15 to county residents. No appointment is necessary, but photo identification is required and payments must be made in cash. For more information call 919-560-0630.

Orange County, which had 12 rabies cases in 2012, has scheduled 11 low-cost rabies vaccinations this year. The next clinic is 3 to 5 p.m.. Feb. 14, at the Animal Services Center, 1601 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill. One-year vaccinations cost $10.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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