Raccoon tests positive for rabies in Point Harbor Subdivision area of Suffolk

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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A raccoon in the Point Harbor Subdivision area of Suffolk has tested positive for rabies after an encounter with a dog.

The Suffolk Health Department received information May 3 about the positive test. 

Fortunately, Health Department officials said the dog was vaccinated against rabies. It will receive a rabies booster and be under a 45-day confinement period as a precaution. 

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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, officials said in a news release Wednesday. 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. Nancy Welch, acting health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, strongly emphasizes that Suffolk residents follow these recommendations to protect their families and pets from rabies: 

  • If a 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 a veterinarian, Suffolk Animal Control or the Suffolk Health Department with any questions about pet vaccinations. 
  • Confine pets to the individual’s property. 
  • Securely seal garbage containers with lids. 

State law requires all dogs and cats four months or older to be vaccinated against rabies, according to the Health Department news release. 

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 bit.ly/423mkfS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/rabies/.