CHAPEL HILL — Orange County Animal Services has received its 14th positive rabies test result of the year, according to the N.C. Laboratory of Public Health.
The county recorded 12 total positive cases last year and also in 2012.
The case began last Sunday when a Mebane resident heard his dog and his brother’s dog barking outside his house. The resident went outside and saw the two dogs cornering a raccoon under the porch. After removing the dogs from the area, the resident shot the raccoon and called 911 to have the on-call Animal Control officer remove it for testing.
A nurse from the Orange County Health Department will contact the owner to evaluate whether there is a risk of human rabies exposure. Of concern in this case is the resident’s handling of the raccoon after it was killed.
Of the two dogs involved in this case, only one was currently vaccinated against rabies. That dog, belonging to the resident, will receive a booster vaccination under North Carolina’s rabies laws. According to these laws, if there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” a dog or cat with a current vaccination must receive a booster shot within 120 hours (five days). By contrast, an unvaccinated animal must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period of six months.
The dog belonging to the resident’s brother was not currently vaccinated against rabies at the time of the exposure. That dog’s owner had yet to decide whether to quarantine the dog at his own expensive or to have it humanely euthanized.
“Awareness and prevention are always important, but especially given the current upswing in rabies cases in Orange County,” said Animal Services Director, Bob Marotto. “Pet owners need to be absolutely sure that their dogs, cats and ferrets are currently vaccinated against rabies and do not have opportunities to come into contact with wildlife.”
Raccoons are a host (or reservoir) species to rabies in our area and the region. Any other animal that becomes rabid in this area is likely the victim of the “spillover effect.” When an animal other than the dominant reservoir species, which is the raccoon in North Carolina, contracts the virus, it is called “spillover.” The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs, skunks and foxes.
The other host species of rabies in our own region and others is bats. Of the few cases of rabies in humans in the United States in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure from a bat, it is critical that citizens immediately contact their animal control program. If an incident involving a bat – or other rabies vector, such as a raccoon or skunk – occurs outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away by calling 911.
For more information, call Orange County Animal Services at 919-942-7387.