Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 14, 2013

Human exposure

Rabies case prompts renewed warnings

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The discovery of the first rabid animal of the year, and a confirmed human exposure, is prompting a renewed warning from health officials in Mercer County.

An unidentified person was exposed to rabies by a rabid raccoon, according to Doris Irwin, RN, of the Mercer County Health Department. The incident occurred last week in the Princeton Avenue area of Bluefield.

The individual was exposed to the rabies virus after attempting to intervene in a fight between a dog and a raccoon. Human exposure to the rabies virus most commonly occurs when a subject is scratched or bitten by a rabid animal. The dog also was exposed to the rabies virus. Raccoons are often attracted to pet food that is left outdoors.

“It happened about a week ago,” Irwin said. “We didn’t get the specimen to test until two days ago. The person who was bitten realized several days ago that this was a problem. He sought treatment and was able to recover the body of the animal for us.”

The incident in Bluefield was the first confirmed case of rabies in Mercer County for 2013.

In light of the development, health officials are advising area residents to avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs, not to feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs, to eliminate outdoor food sources that could attract wild animals, to report stray animals to their local animal control agency, and to keep pets confined to their property or walk them on a leash.

Rabies is a deadly disease. It is fatal if not treated. The virus can be transmitted through animal bites, some scratches and by getting saliva or brain tissue into an open wound or in the eyes, nose or mouth.

Wild animals that have been exposed to rabies may become shy and hide, or become unusually approachable. They may also become irritable, aggressive and suddenly attack. Other signs include staggering, weakness and paralysis, inability to eat or drink, drooling, convulsions and frothing at the mouth.

In order to help area residents have their pets vaccinated, the Mercer County Spay Association is sponsoring a low-cost rabies vaccination clinic at Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic on Saturday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $7. Happy Tails is located at 315 Oakvale Road near Princeton.

It is our hope that many pet owners will take advantage of this clinic. All residents should have their pets vaccinated against rabies, and should ensure that the vaccinations are up to date. With the weather warming up outside, it is probably only a matter of time before the number of confirmed rabies cases in our region increase.

That’s why area residents are urged to take steps today to vaccinate their pets.

Doing so is the best defense against rabies. It also helps to ensure that your pets, and your family, are safeguarded against this deadly disease.