County#039;s first case of rabies reported

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

A family pet was attacked last week in Rutledge by a raccoon that tested positive for rabies, said Jeff Cowen with the Crenshaw County Health Department.

This marks the first time this year that a rabies case has been reported.

Cowen said a Boston Terrier was bitten by a raccoon and although the dog had been vaccinated for the virus, it must be quarantined for 45 days from the date of the attack and monitored for symptoms. The quarantine period is a precaution against the possibility that a pet may appear healthy, but could actually be infected with the virus.

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Cowen said had the dog not received its rabies shot, it would have needed to be isolated for 90 days.

"But it's highly likely in a case like that," said Cowen, "the pet would have acquired rabies and we'd had to euthanize it."

Cowen said the owner of the dog just happened to be outside when the attack occurred. The owner killed the raccoon and the animal was then sent to the state for testing. It came back positive as rabid.

Cowen said having a pet vaccinated is critical towards stopping the spread of rabies. It is a pet owner's responsibility to see that his or her pet's shots are up to date.

"Vaccination acts as buffer between domesticated animals and wildlife," he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle, and dogs most often reported rabid.

Cowen said Crenshaw County usually averages between four and five reported cases of the virus per year.

Cowen said people should be aware of wild animals and strays, especially if they exhibit some of the symptoms of rabies, which can include foaming at the mouth.