Protect yourself, animals

Published 9:46 pm Monday, April 1, 2019

The first positive rabies test in Suffolk this spring was confirmed Friday, when health department officials stated a skunk that recently fought with two dogs in the Longstreet Lane area tested positive for the disease.

Rabies is definitely present in wildlife in Suffolk, and owning a dog or cat means that you are responsible for ensuring they are vaccinated against the disease. For humans, the disease is fatal in almost all cases once symptoms develop.

The Western Tidewater Health District gave these tips to keep yourself and your pets safe:

  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact Suffolk Animal Control at 514-7855 or the Suffolk Health Department at 514-4751.
  • 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. Consult your veterinarian, Suffolk Animal Control or Suffolk Health Department if you have questions.
  • Confine your pets to your property.
  • Securely seal garbage containers with lids.

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Furthermore, just like rabies, spring also brings a greater risk of mosquito-borne illnesses. Horses should be vaccinated against West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. These two diseases are regularly confirmed in Virginia, many times in Suffolk, every year. Last year saw two West Nile cases and eight cases of EEE. They can be deadly to horses.

Mosquitoes carrying EEE or West Nile are a threat to both humans and horses in the area. In addition to vaccinating your horses, other ways you can help protect everyone include:

  • Dumping or draining standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, such as containers and puddles
  • Using insect repellents and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn
  • Turning off the lights in and around the barn at night

Taking these steps will help keep all of the humans in Suffolk, and the animals they love, safe from these deadly diseases this spring.