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Halifax Rabies Outbreak Worries Officials

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HALIFAX COUNTY, N.C. — Veterinarians and animal control officers say they are seeing an increase in the number of rabies cases in Halifax County.

In the past two weeks, four animals in the county have been diagnosed with the deadly disease -- the same number diagnosed in the entire state in 2005. The animals include three raccoons and one dog.

The disease is rare in humans or domestic pets. Last year, 80 percent of confirmed rabies cases across the state were seen in raccoons.

Part of the problem, veterinarian Kay Lawrence said, is that owners are not getting their pets vaccinated.

"We have a very sick pet here today that is almost 2 years old and has never had any vaccine, much less a rabies vaccine," Lawrence said.

Despite a state law requiring rabies shots for all domestic animals 4 months old or older, veterinarians are seeing even more cases where rabies is spread between family pets and wild animals. Part of the reason: leash laws.

"We don't have a leash law, so they will roam, and that's a big problem in our county because we are mostly rural," said Robert Richardson with the Halifax County Animal Control.

Health officials say they are considering booster rabies shots to keep humans and pets safe.

"You need to be more aware of it because it is rabies," Richardson said. "It's not the flu, it's not distemper, it's not parvo -- it's rabies."

Some rabid animals show no signs, but there are symptoms to look out for, including a change of temperament, sudden biting, shakiness or uncoordinated movement, and a change in appetite.

Rabies vaccines and recommended booster shots are available at most animal hospitals and clinics.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that four dogs had rabies.


Fred Taylor, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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