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Rabies Becomes Bigger Problem As Triangle Population Expands

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CARY, N.C. — Cary has now reported its first case of rabies in more than four years. But experts said more construction and development will lead to more reported cases of the disease.

Officials said a wild raccoon recently bit a Cary man near his home on Ridgecrest Road. Tests later confirmed the animal was carrying the rabies virus.

The number of reported rabies cases in Wake County in the last three years is rising. In 2004, there were nine cases, while there were 11 in 2005. Already in 2006, there have been 12 reported rabies cases.

"With the kids here, with them playing around in the yard, if they go and chase something that could come back and bite them, that really worries me," said Cary resident Carolyne Braxton.

Veterinarians said it's not that the rabies virus is spreading throughout the animal population. Instead, they said construction is spreading into their habitat, increasing the chances for contact.

"We are (seeing rabies) existing in places that we didn't previously exist," said rabies expert Dr. Carl Williams. "We are displacing things -- things like habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. We are basically forcing more encounters with wildlife. There's going to be more contact as we continue to grow as a community."

Since it doesn't look like construction will be tapering off, Williams said the best resource is to keep pets vaccinated. That often provides a buffer between wild animals and homebound animals and humans.


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