Orange County

She picked up a baby raccoon with her bare hands. Now she may need rabies shots.

A Chapel Hill woman may need post rabies exposure shots after handling a baby raccoon without gloves Sunday, July 1, 2018, near Finley Golf Course.
A Chapel Hill woman may need post rabies exposure shots after handling a baby raccoon without gloves Sunday, July 1, 2018, near Finley Golf Course. File photo, The Wichita Eagle

A Chapel Hill woman may need medical treatment after handling a rabid raccoon without gloves, Orange County Animal Services officials said.

The raccoon marks Orange County’s third confirmed case of rabies this year, according to the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health.

The woman heard her dogs barking Sunday. She went outside and found a sick baby raccoon in her yard. She placed it in a carrier and called Animal Control, which removed it for rabies testing. The incident took place near UNC’s Finley Golf Course.

A nurse from the Orange County Health Department contacted the woman, who may need post-exposure shots, county officials said. Her dogs were not exposed since they were confined away from that part of the yard.

If a dog, cat or ferret with a current vaccination history has been exposed to rabies, that animal must receive a booster shot within 96 hours (four days). An unvaccinated animal must be destroyed or quarantined for up to four months, or six months for a ferret.

Raccoons and bats are the most common hosts of rabies in the area.

Last year, Orange County had nine confirmed cases of rabies, Animal Services officials said. In 2016 they recorded six.

In 2016 the N.C. Department of Health recorded 251 rabies cases across the state, including 26 bats, two beavers, 10 cats, four cows, one deer, two dogs, 51 foxes, 117 raccoons and 38 skunks.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease in mammals, most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Symptoms in people include fever, headache and general discomfort, progressing to death within days of showing symptoms. However, rabies is rare in people.

Of the few cases in humans in the country in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure to a bat, the affected person should contact Animal Control.

If any incident involving a bat or other animals susceptible to rabies, like raccoons or skunks, takes place outside of regular Animal Control hours, an Animal Control officer can be reached at 911.

Editor's note: The following video contains graphic content. Peter Costa, with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, explains how to properly clean and treat a wound from a bite from a possible rabid animal. The video is an except from a video

Vaccination clinic

Animal Services will hold a low-cost rabies vaccination clinic from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 21, at Schley Grange Hall, 3416 Schley Road in Hillsborough.

Animal Services will offer one and three-year rabies vaccines for $10 and microchips for $35, including registration fees. Three-year vaccinations require printed proof of a previous vaccine. A tag alone is not sufficient. Dogs must be leashed and cats must be in a carrier.

Another rabies vaccination clinic will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 16 at Orange County Animal Services, 1601 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.

For more information go to or call 919-942-PETS (7387).

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Helpful facts

  • North Carolina requires dogs, cats and ferrets older than 4 months to have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times.
  • Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be revaccinated, or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets.
  • Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well. Do not touch your pet without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to rabies.
  • If a suspected rabid animal is alive, do not try to capture the animal. Keep it in sight visual until Animal Control arrives.
  • If you find a bat in your house, do not release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area. Always call Animal Control immediately if you find a bat in your home, even if there is no evidence of a bite.