Rabies on the rise in Isle of Wight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

ISLE OF WIGHT—Three cases of rabies have been confirmed in Isle of Wight County within the last two months, bringing the total number of cases to eight for the year.

According to Jay Duell, of the IOW Health Department, on Oct. 2, a woman was walking her dog along Wrenn’s Mill Road when both she and the dog were attacked by a fox, which tested positive for rabies.

A month later, on Nov. 1, a puppy was attacked in its yard on Woodland Drive by a rabid raccoon, while four days later a dog was attacked in its pen off Burrell’s Bay Road by a rabid skunk.

In the first instance, the woman first chose to get her dog post-exposure treatment for rabies, but decided to have it euthanized in lieu of placing it in strict isolation for 180 days, since it had not been vaccinated for rabies. The owner of the puppy made the same decision.

The third dog had had current rabies shots. As a precaution, however, it was placed on a 45-day observation period.

Duell said the health department makes every effort to inform the public of the incident when an animal is tested positive for rabies.

Exposure of humans to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as an animal bite. Should this happen, it is a serious medical problem and prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical.

Rabies is highly preventable if a vaccine is given early.

Such action is recommended by health officials. Unfortunately, without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure and the disease is fatal in almost 100 percent of cases, according to Dr. Lisa McCoy, Health Director for the Western Tidewater Health District.

Early symptoms of rabies are nonspecific but they include fever, headache and general malaise, according to the Center for Disease Control. As the disease progresses, symptoms may also include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, hallucinations, agitation and hypersalivation.

Death usually occurs within days of developing the most advanced symptoms, according to the CDC.

McCoy said this also includes domesticated dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated and have been infected.

Duell says because of recent instances, pet owners should take every precaution to ensure the safety of themselves and their animals and lists a number of recommendations for IOW residents to follow:

* If

a pet has come in contact with an animal that may be rabid, contact the IOW Animal Control at 365-6318 or the IOW Health Department at 357-9326.

* Seek medical treatment immediately for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment.

* Do not approach stray or wild animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats or dogs.

* Ensure that all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations.

* Confine your pets to your property and securely seal all garbage containers with lids. Do not leave food out that would attract a wild animal.

* State law requires that all dogs and cats over the age of four months be vaccinated against rabies.

For more information on rabies, contact the IOW Health Department.

The earlier five cases involved three attacks by skunks, a raccoon and a fox. The incidents occurred in different locations along Stallings Creek Drive, Fire Tower Road, Waterworks Road, Cypress Way and Cary Street. All animals involved were dogs.

Chief Ed Sullivan of the IOW County Animal Control said he believes the rabid animals are venturing into the populated areas of the county because their homes are being disrupted.

&uot;We have a lot of logging going on in the county and this certainly would cause the animals to move out.&uot;