Health Officials Report Increase in Animal Rabies

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

July 27, 2010

Thomas Jefferson Health District (TJHD) officials say the number of animals positively confirmed with rabies locally has increased 67% over the same time period last year. TJHD covers the jurisdictions of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.

Between January and July of 2010, 15 animals were positively identified as having rabies, as compared to 9 animals during the same time period in 2009.

“Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and is deadly if not treated in time,” said TJHD Environmental Health Manager Jeffrey McDaniel. “The increase in the number of animals with rabies is a public health concern, especially due to the number of humans and domestic animals potentially exposed.”

Since January of this year, TJHD has followed up on 14 humans, 10 dogs and one cat known to have been in contact with an animal that tested positive for rabies.

"There's not much we can do about the wild life. I'm sure that is one of the major carriers, but we can do something about our animals and make sure they are safe. Therefore, people will be safe," said pet owner Gail McIntosh.

Rabies is usually transmitted through a bite. The health department recommends several strategies to ensure that humans and their domestic animals stay rabies-free:

- Vaccinate all cats, dogs, ferrets, livestock and horses; keep up with booster shots

- Enjoy wild animals from a distance, even if they appear tame; never approach or feed a wild animal.

- If you see a wild or domestic animal acting strangely, report it to an animal control officer

- Contact your health department if you or one of your pets have been attacked or bitten by an animal.

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