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Suffolk raccoon tests positive for rabies

A raccoon that fought with a cat in the area of Old Myrtle Road on Aug. 17 has tested positive for rabies, according to a news release from the Suffolk Health Department.

The Suffolk Health Department was notified of the positive test on Aug. 20. The raccoon was involved in an incident with a cat in the 7400 block of Old Myrtle Road, the health department said. The cat has received a rabies vaccine booster and will be under a 45-day confinement.

If you or someone you know was involved in an incident with a wild animal in the vicinity, please contact the Suffolk Health Department or Suffolk Animal Control.

Exposure of humans to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as with an animal bite. An animal exposure can be a serious medical event, for which prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical.

Rabies is highly preventable if the vaccine is given early and as recommended. Unfortunately, without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure and the disease is fatal in almost 100% of cases. The disease is also fatal in infected domestic dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated.

Dr. Todd Wagner, health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, strongly emphasizes the following recommendations for Suffolk residents to take in protecting their families and their pets from rabies:

  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact Suffolk Animal Control at 757-514-7855 or the Suffolk Health Department at 757-514-4751.
  • 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. Please consult your veterinarian, Suffolk Animal Control, or the Suffolk Health Department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.
  • Confine your pets to your property.
  • Securely seal garbage containers with lids.

State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of 4 months to be vaccinated against rabies. For more information on rabies, contact the Suffolk Health Department at 757-514-4751, Suffolk Animal Control at (757) 514-7855, or visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/rabies/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/rabies.