Chapel Hill News

Orange County gets ninth confirmed rabies case

Orange County has received its ninth positive rabies test result last week, almost as many as in each of the two past years.

The county recorded 12 positive cases in 2013 and also in 2012.

The case originated April 19, when an Efland resident found a dead raccoon outside of her barn. The resident owns eight animals – three horses, three dogs and two cats – and their potential exposure to the raccoon cannot be ruled out. Seven of the eight animals were currently vaccinated against rabies and were to receive a booster shot. A cat was not currently vaccinated and was to be euthanized.

“Prevention is the best measure for effective rabies control for pets and people alike,” said Bob Marotto, director of Animal Services. “Ensuring cats, dogs and ferrets are current on their rabies vaccinations is one of the most important responsibilities of a pet owner, since it can quite literally be the difference between life and death for their pet and protect the public from rabies.”

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 our country 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 – should occur outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away through Emergency Communications (9-1-1).

The next Low-Cost Rabies Vaccination Clinic will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8, at the Public Market House/Farmer’s Market in Hillsborough. The cost for rabies vaccinations is $10 and only cash will be accepted at this clinic.