On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Orange County Animal Services received its second positive rabies result of the year from the North Carolina Rabies Laboratory. The case originated the previous day, Feb. 7, when a Hillsborough resident in the vicinity of Borland Road and Old Woods Road witnessed her dog killing a raccoon on his property. The resident called Animal Control, which removed the raccoon from the property to have it tested for rabies.
In this case, fortunately, the dog was currently vaccinated against rabies and has received 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.
As a result 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 this cases is the possibility of secondary exposure from the dog, as it licked the owner in the face after the incident. 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 confirmed rabies case, this one underscores the importance of effective rabies control to ensure the health of people and their animal companions. Animal Services Director Bob Marotto stressed the importance of prevention and knowledge in our communities and the county as a whole.
“Knowing not to handle any animal that has possibly been exposed to rabies, even if it is your own pet, is an important piece of information for all citizens of Orange County to know,” he said.
This is the second positive rabies result this month, and the second of 2012. There were 11 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 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 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 older than 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.