Rabies surge: 10 cases reported so far

Published 11:58 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

A dog got into a fight with a raccoon that ended up testing positive for rabies on Oct. 5 near Morgart’s Beach Road.

The dog, which had been vaccinated against rabies, was given a booster vaccine and will be under a 45-day observation period, according to the Isle of Wight County Health Department.

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This is the tenth case of rabies reported in Isle of Wight County this year, according to Jay Duell with the Isle of Wight County Health Department. Other reported cases occurred in Zuni, Central Hill, Days Point Road and Sugar Hill Road and involved four raccoons, two skunks, two foxes and two feral cats. Raccoons usually top the list, said Duell.  

The number of rabies cases reported this year is considerably higher than the previous two years, where four cases was reported in 2016 and two in 2015. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“With such small numbers, I am not sure why there are spikes … we do not test every animal that may appear to have rabies. We only test those that come into contact with a human or domestic animal. Sometimes we may test an animal when no exposure really occurred, but it is good public relations. So there are a lot of factors that could impact why one year we see a few more or less than another,” said Duell.

Only mammals can contract rabies and most cases occur in skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes and foxes, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, a non-profit that represents veterinarians.

Recently, cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with rabies, according to the AVMA.

In 2015, Virginia was one of five states where more than half of all rabid domestic animals were found, according to the AVMA. The other four states were Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and Kansas.

Animals with rabies can show several signs, including excessive drooling, staggering, paralysis and seizures, as well as aggressive behavior, according to the AVMA. Wild animals may lose their natural fear of humans.

Exposure of humans to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as with an animal bite. An animal exposure can be a serious medical event, for which prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical. Rabies is highly preventable if vaccine is given early and as recommended. Unfortunately, without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure and the disease is fatal in almost 100 percent of cases. The disease is also fatal in infected domestic dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated.

Dr. Christopher Wilson, MD, MPH, health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, strongly emphasizes the following recommendations for Isle of Wight residents to take in protecting their families and their pets from rabies:

•If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact Isle of Wight Animal Control at 365-6318 or the Isle of Wight Health Department at 279-3078.

•Seek medical treatment promptly for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.

•Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs.

•Ensure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. Please consult your veterinarian, Isle of Wight Animal Control, or the Isle of Wight Health Department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.

•Confine your pets to your property.

•Securely seal garbage containers with lids.

State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of four months to be vaccinated against rabies. For more information on rabies, contact the Isle of Wight Health Department at 279-3078, Isle of Wight Animal Control at 365-6318, or visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/rabies/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/  {/mprestriction}