Orange County had three more confirmed rabies cases last week, raising the year’s total to 18, the most in North Carolina.
The county’s Animal Services Department will hold a $10 rabies clinic Thursday at the animal shelter in Chapel Hill.
Animal Services Director Bob Marotto says the county could get 30 cases this year, the most since the 1990s when racoons from Florida were brought to the mid-Atlantic states for hunting.
The county had 12 confirmed rabies cases each in 2013 and 2012.
The latest case happened Aug. 5 when a Chapel Hill family heard their dog yelp, went outside and found a fox clamped on the dog’s front paw. The owners used a shovel and knife to kill the fox and free their dog. The dog nipped one of the owners in the process.
Earlier in the day, residents in the same area had reported a fox killing a raccoon and injuring a cat. Animal Control was trying to trap the cat last week.
A county nurse has been in touch with the family to assess their risk and next steps.
The dog was currently vaccinated against rabies and was to get a rabies booster shot. Under North Carolina law, if there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” a dog or cat with a current vaccination must receive a booster shot within five days. An unvaccinated animal must be killed or quarantined for six months.
This was the fourth rabid fox in Orange County, second only to the 11 raccoons this year, according to the state. Foxes are not the dominant host species of rabies and contract it from a host species, most often the raccoon, in what is known as the “spillover effect.”
The county’s 16th and 17th rabies cases occurred Aug. 2 and Aug. 3.
In the first case, a Carrboro resident saw his pet duck being attacked by a gray fox on his property. The resident used a shovel to rescue the duck from the fox, which charged at the resident before running away. The next day, a neighbor reported finding a dead fox in the road. The county removed it for testing.
In the second case, another Carrboro resident saw a bat on the ground while walking her dog. The dog nosed at the bat and it moved, but died soon after. A nurse was to speak with the woman about her handling her dog after the incident. That dog also was currently vaccinated against rabies and was to get a booster shot.
“Awareness and prevention are always important, but especially given the current upswing in rabies cases in Orange County,” Marotto said in a news release. “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.”
Of the few cases of rabies in humans in the United States in recent years, most have involved bats. To report suspected rabies incidents, call Animal Services at 919-942-7387 or 911.