Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 12, 2014

Mercer’s first rabies of 2014

Health department verifies case from Wright Mountain tests positive

GREEN VALLEY — Mercer County’s first confirmed case of rabies this year is a reminder that the public needs beware of the disease.

The Mercer County Health Department received a call May 3 about a rabies incident in the Wright Mountain area. A dog had been exposed to a raccoon suspected of being rabid.

“Essentially, what happened was we got a call on Saturday,” said sanitarian Andrew Whittaker. “A gentleman that owned a dog said his dog attacked a raccoon and killed the raccoon. He called for us to come get the raccoon and basically to make us aware of what happened.”

Samples from the raccoon were sent to the state Health Department for testing. The county health department was notified on May 6 that the raccoon was rabid.

Rabies is a hazard all year, but when the weather begins to warm up and animals become more active, people are going to see the disease more, Whittaker said. One way to be aware of rabies is to watch out for animals with unusual behavior. Raccoons and other animals infected with rabies may seem unusually aggressive, but they can also appear sluggish, confused and easier to approach.

“One of the reasons we sent this one off is that it was out during the daylight,” Whittaker said. “Raccoons are typically nocturnal. That’s a red flag right there. One of the signs is not having typical behavior. Most of the time they run away. If they accept being close to you or they’re out during the day, that’s a sign. They can be sluggish and slow moving.”

Health officials advise pet owners not to keep pet food outdoors and to secure their garbage; both can attract raccoons and other wild animals. Pet doors should be secured so raccoons cannot enter homes. Bringing dogs and cats indoors at night can reduce the risk of exposing them to rabies, Whittaker said.

People who think their dog or cat could have been exposed to rabies should contact the Mercer County Health Department, and health officials recommend that people who think they may have been exposed seek the counsel of a physician, Whittaker said.

Pet owners have three options when their dog or cat has been exposed to rabies, he said. The first is a strict six-month quarantine at their home, which ensures they have some type of double enclosure such as a 10-by-10-foot kennel inside a 12-by-12-foot kennel.

“There can be no contact at all with the dog,” Whittaker said. “They can’t pet it or let it lick them.”

A second option is to quarantine the pet at a veterinarian’s office or the county animal shelter, which could cost up to $20 a day during a six-month quarantine, he said. The third option is to euthanize the animal.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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