Raccoons most likely wild animal in the county to have rabies
If you ever wanted to pet a raccoon, forget it.
According to Virginia Department of Health, raccoons have the highest probability of having rabies of all forest creatures with skunks and foxes following close behind.
Virginia Department of Health officials note that rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any mammal or human that gets sick from it. The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound or in the eye or mouth.
According to Gary Switzer, environmental health manager for the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health, since 2008 there have been 73 confirmed cases of rabies in recovered raccoons in the county through 2012.
"Those number only reflect reported cases where we were able to recover the raccoon and have it tested," said Switzer.
Switzer said the reasons raccoons top the list are that the animals are more social, and people are moving out to where the animals live. His advice for everyone to avoid getting themselves or their animals bit and possibly infected with rabies from a wild animal is to keep their pets vaccinations updated, don;t feed any wildlife ever, and don't feed feral cats.
"Don't leave food out for your cats or strays because raccoons, skunks, foxes and feral cats figure out there's food there and come to it increasing the chances you or your pets have an encounter with the wild animals and possibly bit," said Switzer.
Switzer says if you or your pets do get bit by any wild animal seek medical attention immediately and alert animal control about the animal so that they can capture it for testing.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO CONTROL RABIES:
Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and selected livestock. Keep the vaccinations up-to-date.
If your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild animal, report it to the local health or animal control authorities. Be sure your vaccinated dog, cat, or ferret receives a booster vaccination.
Limit the possibility of exposure by keeping your animals on your property. Don’t let pets roam free.
Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. It may attract wild or stray animals.
Do not keep wild animals as pets. Enjoy all wild animals from a distance, even if they seem. A rabid animal sometimes acts tame. If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control department and not go near it yourself.
If You Have Been Bitten:
Don't panic...but don't ignore the bite, either. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. Washing thoroughly will greatly lessen the chance of infection. 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. Don't try to pick the animal up. Call an animal control or law enforcement officer to come get it.
It's critically important that you notify your family doctor immediately and explain how you got the bite. Your doctor will want to know if the animal has been captured. If necessary, your doctor will give the anti-rabies treatment recommended by the United States Public Health Service. Your doctor will also treat you for other possible infections that could be caused from the bite.
Report the bite to the local health department.
Source: Virginia Department of Health:
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