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Rabies: Be vigilant

A recent press release from VDGIF got my attention and made me realize that it is probably not a bad idea to remind readers to keep in mind that any animal that they see behaving strangely should be avoided. The press release by VDGIF told of two men riding an UTV in Albermarle County that encountered a bear acting very strangely. The bear reportedly approached the vehicle, tried to bite the tires and then get in with them. They got out of the vehicle and ended up having to shoot the bear.

The release went on to report that, due to the odd behavior of the bear, VDGIF law enforcement submitted the bear’s head for rabies testing. The tests came back positive. At press time we were not able to find out if any of the people were exposed to rabies or needed shots. VDGIF reports that this is the first ever case of rabies in a bear in Virginia. Bears are solitary animals and

VDGIF’s Virginia Bear Project Leader, Jaime Sajecki, commented that there is very little chance that other bears have been infected.

A bear did test positive for rabies in Maryland back in 2007. Other documented cases came from Canada. The event in Virginia appears to be rare indeed. However, other species of animals do get rabies more readily. They include raccoons, foxes, feral cats and dogs. These are the most common but any animal can get the infection and pass it on to your pets or to you.

Signs an animal may be rabid:
Every animal is different. Some infected animals are very aggressive, some are not. Some may even appear to want to come right up to you while others run immediately. Most animals appear to act odd in some way whether it is a confused behavior, or making odd sounds, or be seen at times of day when you might not normally see them. For instance, most foxes will hunt at night or during twilight and may be seen on occasion during the day. However, a fox that walks up to your pet or chicken coop during the day and acts unafraid may be suspect. Treat any suspicious animal with caution. Better safe than sorry.

Manner of infection:
You must come into contact with saliva or brain or spinal fluid of an infected animal. Most people that contract rabies are bitten but the fluids of the infected animal can infect a human through the mouth, nose, eyes or cuts or open sores. Rabies is fatal unless you get the series of shots soon after being infected.

King George has had a few rabid animals in recent years, including a cat. We have been fortunate that cases of rabies remain low in our area. Our animal control officers do a great job responding to calls about animals.

The press release made some good recommendations for readers.
•  Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies and keep them up to date
•  Avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs
•  Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs
•  Report stray animals to your local animal control agency
•  Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home that may attract wild animals
•  Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash
•  Always wear gloves if you need to dispose of a dead animal—Personally I use a shovel and disinfect it with straight bleach in addition to using surgical gloves.

Mark Fike
   

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