Raccoon in Suffolk had rabies

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 27, 2002

Staff report

For the second time this month, there’s a definite case of a rabid raccoon in Suffolk.

The Suffolk Health Department received confirmation this week that the animal tested positive for rabies. The raccoon was found dead in a pen with two vaccinated dogs on Liberty Spring Road.

Email newsletter signup

On Tuesday, the dog owner was suspicious of the raccoon because it entered an occupied dog pen. The two dogs had current rabies vaccines and were placed under confined observation for 90 days.

In the first case, the confirmed rabid raccoon in Suffolk came in contact with a domestic cat in the cat owner’s front yard. The incident occurred on July 17 on Buckhorn. This raccoon was not aggressive, it was exhibiting the &uot;dumb&uot; form of rabies.

Dumb or paralytic rabies describes a form of the disease in which infected animals experience muscle weakness, difficulty walking, and wild animals may lose their fear of humans and act friendly. The raccoon also appeared to be choking, another sign of the disease. Since the cat was not vaccinated, the law requires it to be euthanized immediately or kept under strict isolation for six months.

Rabies is an acute viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of its victim. Unless treated immediately, the virus spreads through the body and kills the victim. Once symptoms of rabies appear, it is too late to receive treatment. In humans, it can take as little as nine days or as long as a year or more for the symptoms of rabies to appear.

Most people that get rabies, however, develop symptoms within 60 days of being exposed. Rabies is most often spread through the bite of a rabid animal, and can also be transmitted through a scratch or contact with saliva. The virus is spread mostly by wild animals, however, any mammal (animals that have fur and are warm blooded) can get rabies.

Domestic animals like dogs, cats, ferrets, and farm animals can get rabies and then pass it on to humans. It is important to vaccinate pets and livestock because people have frequent contact with them.

Please remember that without immediate treatment, rabies is invariably fatal to humans and animals. The best way to protect your family is to vaccinate your pets and keep them up-to-date.

Lawrence Gernon, M.D., M.P.H., health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, is continuing to request that Suffolk residents take the following steps to prevent families and pets from becoming exposed to rabies.

n Make certain that all pets, especially dogs and cats, have current rabies vaccinations. If you have any questions regarding expiration dates etc., contact your local veterinarian or the local Health Department.

– Report all animal bites to the Animal Control Bureau at (757) 923-2160 or the Suffolk Health Department at (757) 686-4978.

n Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs. Avoid all sick or strange-acting animals.

n Do not leave garbage or pet food outside since this attracts wild or stray animals.

n Do not allow your pets to roam at large, keep them on your property

n Leave bats alone!

n Remember, wildlife is a part of our natural heritage. Respect it and enjoy wildlife at a distance for the benefit of all concerned.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact Kevin Seaford at the Suffolk Health Department (757) 686-4978.

Office hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.