Monday, November 28, 2022

Summertime is also rabies time. How to keep you and your pets safe

Animal control officials advise keeping pets up-to-date on vaccines to keep you and your furry friends safe. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
Animal control officials advise keeping pets up-to-date on vaccines to keep you and your furry friends safe. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

As more people venture outside during the summertime and after being cooped-up indoors because of the coronavirus, the sightings of wild animals increase.

So does the chance of encountering a rabid animal.

Summertime is peak season for rabies because more people are coming into contact with animals that may have contracted the disease.

Rabies is a fatal disease that attacks the nervous system and affects only mammals. The virus lives in the saliva and is spread by coming in contact with an open wound.

There has been only one case of rabies in York County and two in Williamsburg so far this year, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

A raccoon found in the Sandy Bay Road area in April tested positive for rabies in James City County, according to a published report.

Mitch Monroe, York County animal services supervisor, said only animals that are showing symptoms and come in contact with a person or domesticated animal are tested for rabies.

Local animal control handles capture and transportation of the animal while the Virginia Department of Health handles the testing.

Testing requires a veterinarian to examine the brain tissue of the animal to determine whether they are infected.

Monroe said if you see an animal showing symptoms, calling proper authorities and reporting the animal is the best course of action.

“Keep your distances and keep any pets away from the animal,” he said.

The symptoms include excessive drooling, staggering or swaying, aggressive or affectionate behavior, seizures, and trouble swallowing.

To prevent the spread of rabies, both animal control departments from York and James City counties recommend keeping pets up to date on vaccinations and avoiding leaving trash outside.

“Every two years, each jurisdiction has free rabies clinics. For example, York County and James City County, we combine our efforts and put on a free rabies clinic,” Monroe said. He said the counties are hoping to have another clinic open this fall.

“We also recommend that livestock get vaccinated as well since they are also susceptible to it,” said Shirley Anderson, James City County animal control supervisor.

Officials said if bitten, the best course of action is to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and apply first aid. Get medical attention as soon as possible. If pets have been bitten, try to identify the animal before it runs away, then seek medical attention for pets.

If your pet has bitten someone, tell the person to seek medical attention immediately. Keep your pet in observational quarantine for 10 days to see if symptoms show.

Report bites to the Animal Control Bureau at 757-890-3621 and the local health department. For the Williamsburg area, call the local health department at 757-253-4813 and all other areas on the Virginia lower Peninsula should contact 757-594-7340.

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