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Expectant mother exposed to rabies virus in Durham County

Most often, people are exposed to rabies through their pets. That's how Shannon Tilley was exposed to the virus when she was nine months' pregnant.

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BAHAMA, N.C. — Five days after the birth of baby Aidan, things are calm at the Tilley household in Bahama. Mom, dad and son are doing fine, but just a few weeks ago, it was a different story.

Nine months' pregnant, Shannon Tilley was exposed to rabies on July 11 while in her backyard with her husband and dog, Abbie.

"I heard some whining from my dog, and I looked, and my dog and a fox were entangled together, starting to fight," Tilley said Tuesday.

When the animals broke away from each other, Tilley says she grabbed Abbie and took her to safety while her husband grabbed a gun and shot the charging fox.

Tilley immediately started checking the dog to see if she was injured.

"I had touched the dog and noticed she had been bitten in the mouth, and there was some blood," Tilley said. "Some blood got on me."

Two days later, Tilley learned the fox was rabid, meaning she and Abbie had been exposed.

Susan Thompson, communicable disease program manager for the Durham County Department of Public Health, says that's the most common way that humans come in contact with the disease.

"The last human case of rabies in North Carolina was in the 1950s, and they actually credit the elimination of human rabies to vaccination of animals," she said.

One of the best ways she says to help limit exposure to the virus is to use gloves when checking pets for scratches and bites when they make contact with a wild animal.

With an uptick in rabies cases this year, Durham County has dropped the price of rabies vaccinations in an effort to encourage everyone to get their animals vaccinated and in turn keep themselves safe.

State law also requires unvaccinated animals be either destroyed or quarantined for six months if they are exposed to the virus.

Abbie was current on her rabies vaccination and received a booster shot. Tilley and her husband were treated for the virus as a precaution.

Vaccinations are available for $10 at the Animal Services Division, 3005 Glenn Road in Durham, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments aren't necessary, but a photo ID is required, and only cash payments are accepted.

"People need to pay more attention to rabies because this year alone we have had eight confirmed cases of rabies in wild animals that includes a raccoon, a fox and a skunk," Thompson said.

"People may think, 'Why does that have anything to do with me?' But they all have pets that are out and have exposure to those wild animals."


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