Local News

Rabid Animals Pose Threat to Pets and People

Posted June 11, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— For some people, the image of rabies is a snarling, snapping, foaming at the mouth dog-- something Like Old Yeller. Of course, that's Hollywood. In real life, rabies tends to favor raccoons, family pets and people.

Orange County just confirmed six more cases of rabies, bringing their total to 52 since the first case was discovered there in July of last year. Scientists say once rabies hits an area, it will never go away. But there are things you can do to protect your family and your pets.

Virginia McIlwain loves her cat Muffin. That's why she wasn't hesitant to pet a neighbor's cat on the road in front her house. But a seemingly affectionate cat instead attacked Virginia's ankle.

The wound is healing, but the cat was not vaccinated for rabies, so Virginia is now receiving shots to prevent the disease.

Virginia's mother realized that the chance of Virginia contracting the disease was low, but she couldn't take the risk with this being a fatal illness.

Situations like this one have prompted the Orange County Animal Protection Society to handout rabies information. They say all pets should be vaccinated and wear tags to prove it. They say you should avoid contact with wild animals. That also means getting rid of trash or pet food which may attract wild animals.

Animal Protection Director Pat Sanford warns people to be aware of what a rabid animal looks like. Any abnormal behavior like staggering or coming out during daylight hours should be an alert. If you see such an animal got up to other animals, adults, or to your door, don't hesitate to call 911.

Virginia has learned some lessons from here experience. Don't approach any animal you don't know very well, especially now that rabies is in the area.

Rabies is spread mainly through bites, but if you have a scratch or a cut and have had contact with the saliva of a rabid animal you may also be at risk.

If you are bitten by a rabid animal, act quickly. Wash any exposed skin with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 10 minutes. Call your doctor right away and describe what has happened. Free rabies vaccines are available if you qualify.