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Albemarle County Sees Spike in Rabies Cases

October 3, 2012

The rabies virus has been a growing concern for Albemarle County animal control officers and for pet owners across the area, as there have been more cases in 2012 alone than the past two years combined.

"The end result of rabies is almost 100 percent death," said Sandra Urry, an animal control officer with Albemarle County Police Department.

Animal control officers have recorded nine confirmed cases of rabies in 2012 alone. That number is up from just one case in 2011 and five cases in 2010.

"It tells me that there's potentially more rabies out there, but there's definitely more rabid animals coming in contact with humans or our livestock," Urry said.

The rabies virus is generally transferred through saliva of an infected animal.

"The only animals that are tested are those that involve an exposure to either someone's companion animal, livestock or a person," Urry said.

While animal control officials can't attribute the sharp spike to any one particular reason, the folks at the Albemarle Veterinary Health Care Center say urbanization could be a factor.

"Due to increasing populations and moving and building development, we're encroaching on the wildlife habitats causing us to see more animals that could potentially be rabid," said Kathryn Corpan, a doctor of veterinary medicine with the health care center.

Rabies can spread to any mammal. Earlier this year, Virginia saw its first rabid bear in recorded history in western Albemarle County. It tried to attack two men, who were not harmed.

Veterinarians say cats are often more susceptible to rabies because cat owners often don't think to

Officials say prevention is the best way to protect your pets and yourself.

"Rabies is definitely out," Urry said. "It will always be out there so the best thing to do is prevent your contact with wildlife. Enjoy them from a distance."

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