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A Rabid Pet Dog

BUCKINGHAM – A dog from the Manteo area of Buckingham County was tested and found to have rabies on September 1. This is the first case of rabies in a domestic dog in Buckingham in the past ten years and the third rabid animal confirmed in Buckingham this year, the other two were wild skunks. The Buckingham County Animal Control and Health Departments want to remind county citizens to avoid contact with strange or wild animals and about the importance of having their pets vaccinated against rabies.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and is fatal to almost any mammal or human that gets sick from it. The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound; rarely by getting virus in the eye or mouth. Only mammals get rabies; birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians do not. Wild skunks, bats, foxes, and raccoons are most likely to get rabies. Rabies can be prevented in cats, dogs, ferrets, and most livestock with a rabies vaccination.

If you've been bitten by an animal; don't panic, but don't ignore the bite either. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. Washing greatly lessens the chance of infection. Give first aid as you would for any wound. If possible, capture the animal under a large box or can, or at least identify it before it runs away. Don't try to pick the animal up. Call the Animal Control Officer to come get it. If it's a wild animal that must be killed, don't damage the head. The brain will be needed to test for rabies. It's critically important that you notify your family doctor and the Health Department immediately and explain how you got the bite. They will want to know if the animal has been captured. If necessary, the Health Department will arrange for you to receive anti-rabies treatment. Your doctor will also treat you for other possible infections that could be caused from the bite.

A special note about bats: Most people know when they have been bitten by a bat, but there are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. Such as: if you awaken and find a bat in your room, see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person. Do not destroy or throw away the bat. Call the Health Department to have the bat tested and to see whether anyone needs medical care.

What can you do to prevent the spread of rabies: Have your veterinarian vaccinate your pets and selected livestock. Keep the vaccinations up-to-date. If your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild animal, report it to the Health Department and Animal Control immediately. Limit the possibility of exposure by keeping your animals on your property and do not let pets roam free. Also, do not leave garbage or pet food outside; it may attract wild or stray animals.

Wild animals should be enjoyed from a distance; even if they seem friendly (a rabid animal sometimes acts tame). If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to Animal Control. Don't go near it yourself and don't destroy wild animals at random just because there may be a rabies outbreak in your area, only a few wild animals will be carrying rabies. Remember, wildlife is a part of our natural heritage. Enjoy it, respect it, but at a distance for the benefit of all concerned. For more information, please contact the Buckingham Health Department at (434)969-4244 or you can visit the following website: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/Epidemiology/DEE/Rabies/