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Health district issues rabies alert

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By Staff Reports

The Mount Rogers Health District has recently tested four potentially rabid animals.

The district refused to disclose from which localities the animals were tested in order to “protect the privacy of the individuals involved and because there is no public health reason to do so.”

The health district includes Carroll, Grayson, Wythe, Smyth, Bland and Washington counties and the cities of Galax and Bristol.

A raccoon and a goat tested positive. A groundhog was tested, but results were inconclusive so the animal was presumed to be positive. All these animals were exposed to people or pets.

A bat also was found in a room where people were sleeping. Waking up in a room and simply finding a bat also is considered to be exposure because bats can bite without a person realizing they’ve been bitten, the health district said in a news release.

“These events serve as a reminder that rabies is always present in our area, and that exposures from a wide variety of animals, both wild and domestic, are possible,” said Scott Honaker, district environmental health manager. “Pets serve as a buffer — and a potential path for transmission — between wild animals and people and their livestock. Vaccinating pets helps protect people and livestock by helping to limit the spread of rabies from wild animals.”

Pets that have been exposed to rabid animals but have current rabies vaccinations will receive a booster and must be confined for 45 days to watch for any signs of illness. Pets that have been exposed to rabid animals but do not have current rabies vaccinations are at much greater risk of falling ill, so they must be euthanized or held in strict isolation for six months.

If you are bitten, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. Call your physician, local health department or animal control agency immediately.

To limit potential exposure to the virus, keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for pets and selected livestock. Never approach wild or stray animals or leave pet food or garbage outside.

The Code of Virginia requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets four months old and older must be vaccinated against rabies and receive periodic boosters to maintain the vaccine’s protection. Livestock can also be vaccinated against rabies.

For information, contact a local health department or (276) 781-7450.