Leading from the Left

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Rabies Is a Problem in Orange County

Rabies continues to be a big problem in Orange County. For some reason it doesn't get talked about much or mentioned much in the local papers, but Orange County has more than our fair share of rabid raccoons, foxes, etc.

Please keep your pet's rabies vaccination up-to-date. If you don't, and your dog is attacked by a rabid animal, you will be forced to either euthanize Spot or quarantine him for 6 months. I know of one local family that is bearing the expense of a 6 month quarantine, and that's not something any of us can really afford. Six months at a kennel costs thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Here's a press release sent out by Orange County staff today:


Release Date: July 1, 2009
Contact: Robert Marotto, Orange County Animal Services Director (919)

Positive Rabies Test for a Raccoon

CHAPEL HILL - On Tuesday, June 30th, Orange County Animal Services received a positive rabies result for a raccoon from the North Carolina Rabies Laboratory.
This is the ninth confirmed rabies case in Orange County for 2009.

On the evening of Sunday, July 28th, a resident in the vicinity of NC Highway 86 North and Sawmill Road came home and saw his dog fighting with a raccoon. He shot the raccoon and then called 911. Animal Control responded to his call and removed the raccoon for testing because of the known exposure it had with the dog.

Fortunately, the resident’s dog was currently vaccinated against rabies. According to the law, if there is "a reasonable suspicion of exposure," a cat or dog with a current vaccination must receive a booster shot within seventy-two hours of that exposure. In this case, the dog received a booster rabies vaccination the day after its contact with the raccoon. An unvaccinated cat or dog, by contrast, would have needed to be
humanely euthanized or quarantined for a period of six (6) months at a veterinary clinic.

As a result of the positive test result, the case has been referred to a Communicable Disease (CD) Nurse from Orange County's Health Department to evaluate the risk of rabies exposure so that the resident can decide whether to obtain medical treatment. Any concern in this case is with secondary exposure and the resident reduced the risk of such exposure by wearing gloves to bag up the raccoon for Animal Control. As is always the case, however, a decision about the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies is made by the person involved, based upon an assessment of all the involved factors.

As with any positive rabies test result, this case underscores the importance of effective rabies control to ensure the health of the people and their animal companions. Animal Services Director Bob Marotto stresses the importance of prevention in our communities and the County as a whole. "Prevention is the best measure for effective rabies control. Ensuring that cats as well as dogs are current on their rabies vaccinations is one of the most important responsibilities of a pet owner. And given the requirements of North Carolina law, which ensures the health and safety of the public, it can quite literally be the difference between whether a
pet lives or dies," Marotto said.

Raccoons are a host (or reservoir) species to rabies in our area and the region. Any other animal that becomes rabid in this area is likely the victim of the "spillover
effect." When an animal other than the dominant reservoir species, which is the raccoon in North Carolina, contracts the virus, it is called "spillover." The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs, skunks, and foxes.

The other host species of rabies of concern in our own region and others is
bats. Of the few cases of rabies in humans in our country in recent years,
most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure from a bat, it is critical that citizens immediately contact their animal control program. If an incident involving a bat-or other rabies vector such as a raccoon or skunk-should occur outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away through Emergency Communications (911).

The eight (8) previous rabies case in Orange County in 2009 include three (3) raccoons, two (2) bats, two (2) foxes, and one (1) skunk. Last year, there were a total of twenty (20) positive rabies tests for the County and in 2007, there were nineteen (19) positive tests.


Low-cost rabies clinics are offered by the Orange County Animal Services Department. Authorized by North Carolina State law, such county clinics provide pet owners with substantial savings on rabies vaccinations while ensuring that pets have a current vaccination.

There were two clinics in June at the County’s new Animal Services Center and more than 125 cats and dogs were vaccinated at each of these clinics. Three clinics will be held in the latter part of September in conjunction with World Rabies Day. The vaccination fee for all clinics is $5.00, which must be paid in cash. Dogs must be on leashes and cats must be in carriers. For further information, call 942-7387 or
go to http://www.co.orange.nc.us/animalservices/rabies.asp.


It is a law in North Carolina that pets over the age of 4 months must have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times. Orange County’s ordinance also requires that all pets wear a rabies vaccination tag. Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be revaccinated within 72 hours or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets.Unvaccinated pets that may have been exposed to rabies must either be destroyed or quarantined at a veterinary office for 6 months at the owner’s expense. If a rabies suspect is alive, do not attempt to capture theanimal. Keep visual contact with the animal until Animal Control arrives. Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well, so do not touch your animal without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to a rabies vector