Chapel Hill News

Orange County gets 10th rabies case of year

Orange County Animal Services recorded its 10th positive rabies test result of the year, according to the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health. This incident involved a skunk.

The County recorded a total of 23 positive cases last year, a marked increase in the number from the two previous years which had 12 positive cases each.

The case originated Dec. 16, when Hillsborough residents noticed their dog had been sprayed by a skunk. One of the residents was able to shoot and kill the skunk. He then called Animal Control to have it removed and tested for rabies.

The dog was not currently vaccinated against rabies. North Carolina law requires it must be either destroyed or quarantined for six months at the owner’s expense. Under this same law, by contrast, a dog or cat with a current rabies vaccination must only receive a booster shot within five days (120 hours) of any suspected rabies exposure. The dog in this case is being humanely 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.”

Skunks are not the dominant host species of rabies and contract it from a host species, most often the raccoon. This is known as the “spillover effect.” The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs, 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 – should occur outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away through Emergency Communications (9-1-1).