Rabid raccoon cause for concern

Published 8:53 am Tuesday, September 22, 2009

AHOSKIE – The first confirmed case of rabies this year has Hertford County officials sounding an alarm.

Charles Jones, the county’s Animal Control Director, said results received Monday from a test conducted at a state lab in Raleigh confirmed his worst fears – that of a rabid raccoon found last week in the front yard of a residence on NC 561 East (Harrellsville Highway).

While no humans were affected by the raccoon, Jones said the wild animal may have come in contact with domestic pets in that area of the county.

“There were some neighborhood dogs found around the raccoon carcass when it was discovered on Thursday of last week in the Hickory Chapel Church area,” Jones said. “The markings found on the raccoon give us reason to believe the raccoon was killed by another animal.”

Jones continued, “We think it’s quite possible that these neighborhood pets were in the direct contact with the raccoon or in contact with other domestic animals that may have been in contact with the raccoon.”

For that reason, Jones said he had no other option than to quarantine at least five domestic animals in that area.

“These five animals do not have their rabies shots up to date,” Jones said. “These animals must be quarantined for up to six months. That’s not my ruling, that’s a state law.”

In an effort to enlighten the public, Jones said Hertford County Animal Control will be canvassing an area of NC 561 East between the DT Road and the Godwin Town Road to notify pet owners to have their animals immediately vaccinated for rabies. Jones said pet owners who do not comply will be cited.

“This is serious business,” Jones stressed. “We can all help to stop the spread of rabies.”

Wild animals such as foxes, raccoons, bobcats and skunks are most vulnerable to contracting and spreading rabies. Jones said if you find one of these animals dead (not road kill) on your property, contact his office immediately (358-7861).

Jones also urged parents or guardians of small children to closely supervise their outdoor activities.

“Be on the lookout for these wild animals and please encourage your children not to interact with them,” Jones said. “And for those kind-hearted adults who sometimes tend to pick-up a stray kitten or puppy from the roadside, my advice is if it’s not your animal, then leave it alone.”

Wild animals inflicted with rabies will drool at the mouth and walk as if they are drunk.

“If they are rabid, they tend not to be frightened by humans,” Jones concluded. “If you think they are rabid, keep your distance from them and give us a call.”