Health Team

Rabies cases are cause for caution

Posted July 21, 2010 6:05 p.m. EDT
Updated July 24, 2010 4:09 p.m. EDT

— Rabies is a fatal virus infection that affects the central nervous system. If someone is exposed to it through a bite, it is vital that treatment is sought before the virus has a chance to affect the body.

Kristy Hansen's son became exposed to rabies. The family lives on Bayberry Lane in north Raleigh.

“We have a creek that runs along behind our house, so we see foxes (and) deer,” Hansen said.

Hansen said wild animals generally keep their distance. However, last May, a fox invaded a cul-de-sac where her son, Evan, and friend, Ryan Koves, were playing.

“It bit his shoe and then it chased me all around that house,” Koves said.

The boys told their parents who called animal control.

“They caught it and they killed it,” Koves said. "It had rabies."

No sign of a bite appeared on either boy, but animal control officers still considered the exposure serious.

“There was certainly an awful lot of concern that I really should get him treated,” Hansen said.

The boys received a series of shots as a precaution.

Bats are the most common transmitter of rabies. “But after that, it's raccoons, skunks and foxes. So those are the highest risk animals in the United States,” Dr. Eduardo Piqueras, WakeMed emergency physician, said.

Piqueras credits effective pet vaccination efforts and rabies awareness for the rarity of human rabies cases.

To help minimize the risk of exposure to rabies, animal control officials say to:

  • Avoid interactions with wildlife.
  • Be sure pets are current with rabies vaccinations.
  • Don't leave trash or food outside, unless it is in a trash can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • If a pet is fed outside, do not leave food out overnight.
  • Do not leave pets in the outdoors unattended.
  • If a pet comes in contact with wildlife, contact a veterinarian immediately.
  • If you see a wild animal behaving strangely, that you think could be rabid, call animal control.