Durham has two confirmed rabies cases this year

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 06:07 PM

Sheriff’s officials have confirmed two cases of rabies in Durham County this year – both involving raccoons.

A resident reported finding a dead raccoon Jan. 29 in a front yard in the 2300 block of Strawberry Lane in northern Durham. The deputy determined the raccoon apparently was killed by another animal – probably a pet dog.

The raccoon was taken by the officer and later delivered to the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health in Raleigh, where it was tested for the rabies virus. Two days later, the lab confirmed the dead raccoon had been infected with rabies.

Tuesday afternoon, sheriff’s officials confirmed a second rabies case.

An animal services officer responded Saturday to the 2300 block of Alabama Avenue, in Old West Durham, after a resident reported a dead raccoon in his yard. The animal was sent to the state lab, where it was tested for rabies. Tests confirmed the animal was infected, and the lab notified sheriff’s officials at noon Tuesday.

Lt. Brendan Hartigan of the Sheriff’s Animal Service Division said that in the first rabies case, the dog that killed the raccoon was current on its rabies vaccination, and only required a booster shot.

“This is an excellent example of why we encourage people to keep their pets current on the rabies vaccine,” Hartigan said. “You never know if your dog or cat might encounter a wild animal that’s infected with rabies, and the only way to truly protect them from infection is to ensure they’re vaccinated. It’s also worth mentioning that state law requires any dog, cat, or ferret 4 months and older to be vaccinated.”

Hartigan said it’s hard to know how the raccoon became rabid.

“It could have gotten into a fight with some other animals that had rabies – another raccoon, fox or skunk. They are also carriers.”

These are the first two confirmed cases of rabies in Durham County this year. There were no confirmed cases in Durham last year, although 60 animals were impounded and tested for rabies during the second half of 2012. Most were bats (36) and raccoons (17), but none tested positive.

Hartigan said people often find bats in their homes.

“Typically, people complain that they found a bat flying around in the bedroom or something like that,” he said. “And bats are small enough that it’s often tough to tell if anyone had exposure [was bitten] while they were sleeping. So we go ahead and send those bats right off for testing.”

Hartigan’s advice to anyone who sees an animal suspected of being rabid is to leave it alone and call the Durham County Sheriff’s Office at 919-560-0900.

He also urges people to ensure their pets’ vaccinations are up to date.

The Sheriff’s Animal Services Division, at 3005 Glenn Road in Durham, offers rabies vaccines every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. for $15 to county residents. No appointment is required, but photo identification is, and payments must be made in cash. For more information, call 919-560-0630.