Rabies cases spike in Buckingham County, across the region

Published 12:25 am Tuesday, July 18, 2023

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FARMVILLE – The numbers are going up. That’s the warning issued by the Piedmont Health District. In 2022, the district had to test a total of 53 animals for rabies. As of July, the district has already tested 37 this year. Nineteen of those were wild animals, including seven raccoons and four skunks. Out of that number, 12 tested positive, a 63% positivity rate.

Rabies cases are popping up across the region. The health district has received four positive specimens in Buckingham County; two in Charlotte County; two in Cumberland County; two in Lunenburg County and one in Prince Edward County. District officials report no positive domestic animal cases so far this year.

“Although statistics for percentage of wildlife testing positive for each year are similar, the data certainly
indicates wildlife encounters and positive rabies cases are much higher this year than last,” said Piedmont
Health District Environmental Health Manager David Waldrep. “We want to emphasize the importance of
getting all animals vaccinated and in the event of an exposure, getting help immediately.”

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Rabies comes from a virus that attacks the nervous system killing almost any mammal or human it infects. It is transmitted through a bite or getting infected saliva in an open wound, eye or mouth.

According to Dr. Maria Almond, director of the Piedmont Health District, it can be hard to track cases of rabies as it is usually wild animals infected and a positive test comes from testing the brain matter after the animal is deceased. Fortunately, none of these reported cases involved a dog or other pet.

“All specimens that were positive were from wildlife — either raccoons or skunks,” said Almond.

How to prevent rabies from spreading

With the increase in confirmed cases, the Piedmont Health District has a few ways to control the spread of rabies. First, owners should make sure that their dogs, cats, ferrets and selected livestock are up to date with their rabies vaccinations. It’s also best practice to keep pets and livestock penned in and not roam free where they could encounter an infected animal.

Also, wild animals should be observed from a distance. The health district warns that even though they may seem friendly, rabid animals can also act tame.

When a bite happens

The best thing to do is stay calm and call animal control to come get the animal. Give first aid to the wound and notify your doctor immediately and explain how the bite happened. If needed, your doctor will give the anti-rabies treatment recommended by the United States Public Health Service and treat any other possible infections. Also, report the bite to the health department.

“Our local health dept does handle, if needed, the subsequent post-exposure prophylaxis with a series of vaccination shots after an [emergency department] has provided the initial rabies immunoglobulin shot and the first dose of rabies vaccine,” said Almond. “Our environmental health specialists work with animal control and, if needed, collect specimens to send to the central state lab for testing.”