Rural sensibilities

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, May 29, 2014

Seems like it’s that time of year again when folks in Suffolk start remembering that, despite their hometown’s claim to being the largest city in Virginia, living in Suffolk can require a dose of rural sensibility.

From bears rattling the trashcans to ticks crawling up pants legs to the risk of rabies in unfamiliar animals, both wild and domesticated, spring in Suffolk brings a variety of challenges that folks in most cities never experience.

Especially as folks become used to thinking of themselves living in a place that has been tamed by the hands of man, they can become unaware of the potential threats they face from nature reasserting itself.

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Three different people in the Harbour View area — one of Suffolk’s busiest suburban mixed communities — are receiving treatment for exposure to rabies after being bitten or scratched by a stray cat during the past week or so. Health officials are actually unsure whether the same cat was involved in each incident, but after tests on one stray in the area came back positive for the deadly infection, all three victims were treated as if they had been exposed.

Rabies exposure is deadly for unvaccinated pets and it is also almost always fatal in humans if it’s not caught and treated in time. And by the time a victim develops symptoms, there is no cure for it.

Just as there are steps folks can take to reduce the chance they’ll tangle with bears in Suffolk (start by making sure to tightly close your trashcans and by not keeping food scraps in them when it can be avoided), residents can reduce the chance they’ll ever be exposed to a rabid animal — or, even worse, have to go through a round of rabies shots after being bitten or scratched.

  • Stay away from wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs.
  • Make sure all your dogs, cats and ferrets are current on their vaccinations.
  • Keep your pets on your property and keep an eye on them.
  • And seal your garbage containers with lids.

For more information about rabies in Suffolk, call the Suffolk Health Department at 514-4751. To report a suspicious animal, call Suffolk Animal Control at 514-7855.