On Tuesday, Feb. 1, Orange County Animal Services received the first positive rabies result from the North Carolina Rabies Laboratory for 2012. The case involved a raccoon submitted because of possible exposure it may have had with two household dogs in the vicinity of Bethel-Hickory Grove Church Road and Dairyland Road in Chapel Hill.
The case originated on the morning of Monday, Jan. 30, when a Chapel Hill resident discovered a dead raccoon in her driveway. The resident called Animal Control since she had let her dogs out unsupervised earlier and was unsure as to whether they killed it but assumed that they had. Animal Control removed the raccoon from the property to have it tested for rabies.
Fortunately in this case, the dogs were both currently vaccinated against rabies and will receive a booster shot pursuant to North Carolina statute. According to the law, if there is a reasonable suspicion of exposure, a dog or cat with a current vaccination must receive a booster shot within 120 hours, or five days. By contrast, an unvaccinated animal must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period of six months.
Because of the positive result, a communicable disease nurse from Orange County’s Health Department will contact the dog owner to evaluate her risk of rabies exposure. The concern in these cases is usually the possibility of secondary exposure from the owner’s handling of his or her own dogs after the attack.
As is always the case, a decision about the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies is based upon an assessment of all the factors involved in a situation of this kind.
As with any positive rabies test result, this case underscores the importance of effective rabies control to ensure the health of people and their animal companions. Animal Services Director Bob Marotto stresses the importance of prevention and knowledge in our communities and the county as a whole.
“Knowing to call Animal Services immediately and booster your animal within the 120-hour period required by NC General Statute is always of extreme importance,” Marotto said. “As important as having a current vaccination, knowing to booster can make a tremendous difference for a dog or cat, and for its human household.”
This is the first positive rabies result for Orange County in 2012. There were eleven positive cases in the county in 2011.
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 (911).
2012 low-cost rabies vaccination clinic schedule
Low-cost ($10) rabies vaccination clinics for 2012 have been scheduled and are now available on the Animal Services website. The next clinic will be held Thursday, Feb. 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Animal Services Center. Authorized by North Carolina State law, such clinics provide pet owners with substantial savings on rabies vaccinations while ensuring that pets have a current vaccination.
Did you know?
• It is a law in North Carolina that dogs, cats and ferrets over the age of 4 months must have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times.
• Orange County’s ordinance also requires that all pets wear a rabies vaccination tag.
• Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be revaccinated within five days, or 120 hours, or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets
• Unvaccinated pets that may have been exposed to rabies must either be destroyed or quarantined at a veterinary office for six months at the owner’s expense.
• Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well, so do not touch your animal without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to a rabies vector.
• If a rabies suspect is alive, do not attempt to capture the animal. Keep visual contact with the animal until Animal Control arrives.
• If you discover a bat inside your house, be sure not to release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area.
• Always call Animal Control immediately if you find a bat in your residence, even if there is no evidence of a bite.