Uptick in rabies cases reported

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, March 6, 2019

There have been four animals reported to be infected with rabies over the course of 20 days in Lunenburg County, according to Environmental Health Manager Ed Dunn with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Piedmont Health District.

Dunn said three skunks and a raccoon were discovered to be infected with rabies. According to a map provided by Dunn, two skunks and a raccoon tested positive for rabies off Route 662, and a skunk tested positive for rabies off Route 49, Courthouse Road.

The infections were reported between Feb. 11 and March 1.

The first rabid skunk was reported Feb. 11, the second rabid skunk was reported Feb. 26, and the third rabid skunk and rabid raccoon were both reported March 1.

Dunn said having the rate of animals infected this closely together is somewhat out of the ordinary.

“The Lunenburg County Animal Control and Health Departments remind Lunenburg citizens to avoid wild animals and to keep their pets vaccinated against rabies,” a release from the VDH Piedmont Health District cited.

According to the VDH, rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and affects mammals, including animals and humans.

Rabies is usually transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue into a wound, the VDH cited. It’s rarely transmitted by getting the virus in the eye or mouth.

Rabies can be prevented in cats, dogs, ferrets, and most livestock by having the animals vaccinated by a veterinarian, VDH officials cited in the release.

If a human has been bitten by a rabid animal, VDH officials encourage the person to not panic, to wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical treatment.

“It is critically important that you notify your family doctor and the Health Department immediately and explain how you got the bite; they will want to know if the animal has been captured,” the release cited. “If necessary, the Health Department will arrange for you to receive anti-rabies treatment. Your doctor will also treat you for other possible infections from the bite.”

The release cited that if possible, the person should try to capture the animal under a large box or can, or identify it before it runs away.

“Do not try to pick the animal up, call the Animal Control Officer to come get it,” the release cited. “If it’s a wild animal that must be killed, avoid damaging the head, the brain is needed to test for rabies.”

To limit the possibility of exposure to household pets or livestock, the VDH encourages people to keep animals on their property and to not let pets roam free.

Avoid leaving garbage or pet food outside, as those can attract wild or stray animals.

Children should be taught to not touch wild animals. If wild animals appear to be acting strangely, or in the case of skunks or other nocturnal animals, out in daylight, it’s possible they have rabies.

“Please do not destroy wild animals at random just because there may be a rabies outbreak in your area, only a few wild animals will actually have rabies,” the release cited.

The Lunenburg Animal Hospital in Kenbridge is set to administer rabies vaccines during the month of March and will have a rabies clinic Saturday, March 16, from 9-11 a.m.

For more information, contact the Lunenburg Health Department at (434) 696-2346 or visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/animal-contact-human-health.