DRASTIC INCREASE IN RABID RACCOONS – What you need to know.
Mom and baby raccoon nestled in a tree to sleep the day away at First Landing State Park. Photo Cred: June McDaniels | For The Virginian-Pilot
GOT RACCOONS ON BEE RIDGE?
Virginia Beach health officials have noticed a sharp increase in rabies cases so far this year, with the first four months of 2018 already surpassing last year’s total.
The virus can be deadly to wild animals, pets who aren’t vaccinated and humans who get exposed.
“We’re just into April and we have seven already,” said Valerie Thompson, the environmental health supervisor for the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health. “I think that’s high.”
Of the seven cases, six have been confirmed in raccoons.
The Health Department will test for rabies in cases where it has a reason to, including when an animal like a raccoon is being aggressive, is showing signs of sickness and has come into contact with another animal or person.
While there has been an increase, the Health Department is not yet calling the problem an outbreak. In years past, Virginia Beach has seen annual totals of 12 to 14 cases.
Still, Thompson and others see an opportunity to alert the public.
“The health department has reported a drastic increase in rabies in raccoons; along with rabies in a fox and a domestic cat,” a Monday news release from Virginia Beach Animal Control said, adding that it has tested a select few raccoons displaying unusual behavior.
All of those tests came back positive for another infectious disease: canine distemper.
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Other cities are seeing rabies cases crop up, as well.
Why the uptick?
Andrew Silverstone, a veterinarian and founder at Veterinary Hospital of Virginia Beach, said a lot of it has to do with people being outside more. There’s more of a chance for people and their pets to come into contact with a rabid raccoon. Raccoons are active throughout the year, Silverstone said, but their mating season is during the first six months.
His office, which has had relatively few people bringing their pets in for vaccinations during this uptick over the last few months, has not dealt with a positive rabies case this year.
But there was a close call.
One client brought in a dog that had gotten into a fight with a raccoon at home. A neighbor came to help out and took it upon himself to kill the raccoon, Silverstone said. That might not have been the smartest choice because the animal could have been rabid.
The tests came back last week. They were negative.
Note: Video below is a raccoon from Kalamazoo, Michigan, not Youngstown.
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