Rabies report for 2017

Published 5:24 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Piedmont Health District investigated 305 potential rabies exposures and administered post exposure rabies prophylaxis (rabies shots) to 64 individuals in 2017. The district sent 60 suspect animals for rabies testing with 14 positives in its seven county service area between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of 2017 as follows: Amelia (none); Buckingham (2 calves, 5 skunks); Charlotte (1 bobcat, 2 skunks); Cumberland (none); Lunenburg (none); Nottoway (1 raccoon, 2 skunks) and Prince Edward (1 skunk).

It is important to note that animals are only tested when they are available and are suspected to have exposed a person or domestic animal. The number of rabid animals in circulation is greater and rabies is present in the wild animal population across Virginia.

Rabies is a virus that is present in Virginia’s wildlife, especially in certain wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and sometimes in bats. In domestic animals, unvaccinated cats and dogs are the greatest threat. It is important to remember though that any mammal can get rabies and that rabies kills almost any mammal that gets sick from it.

Understanding the serious nature of rabies and being vigilant in preventing it are critical to safeguarding both human and animal health. The Virginia Department of Health strongly advises taking the following steps to protect families and pets from rabies: Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies and keep them up to date. Avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs. Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs. Report stray animals to your local animal control agency. Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home. Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash.

Remember wild animals should be enjoyed from a distance; even if they seem friendly, a rabid animal sometimes acts tame. If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to Animal Control and don’t go near it. Do not kill wild animals at random as only a few could have rabies.

If you’ve been bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and give first aid as you would for any wound. If possible, capture the animal under a large box or can, or at least identify it before it runs away. Do not touch or try to pick up the animal, call Animal Control to capture it. If it is a wild animal that must be killed, don’t damage the head; an intact brain is needed to test for rabies. It is critically important that you notify your family doctor and the Health Department immediately. They will arrange for anti- rabies treatment if necessary.

For more information on rabies, please contact your local county Health Department or you can visit www.vdh.virginia. gov/environmental-epidemiology/ rabies-control/.