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UPDATED: Rabies confirmed in raccoon attack

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UPDATED 8/15

By April Wright, Reporter

A raccoon that attacked a 17-month-old boy and his father in the Country Club Lane area on Aug. 11 tested positive for rabies over the weekend, the first case this year for Galax, said Kristina Webb, an environmental health specialist at the city’s health department.
The child and his father have received their second of six sets of treatments. Both were treated for rabies the day of the attack at the emergency room at Twin County Regional Hospital, while they awaited lab results.
Three cats came in contact with the raccoon. One was put down on Aug. 11; another that escaped was captured on Saturday and euthanized; and the third that had a rabies vaccine is being quarantined at the animal shelter for a 45-days observation period.
The child, who was playing outside and being supervised by his father, was bitten on the stomach when he was approached by the raccoon. His father was scratched on the hand when he grabbed the raccoon by the back of the neck to fight it off of the child.
Last year, there were two rabies cases in the city involving a raccoon and a skunk.
 

FROM 8/12/11:

A 17-month-old and his father are undergoing treatments after the child was attacked Thursday afternoon in the Country Club Lane area of Galax by what is believed to have been a rabid raccoon.
If the results come back positive for rabies, this will be the first case of rabies in the city this year. There have been reports from Carroll and Grayson counties in 2011.
The child, who was playing outside and being supervised by his father, was bitten on the stomach when he was approached by the raccoon. His father was scratched on the hand when he grabbed the raccoon by the back of the neck to fight it off of the child.
The raccoon was destroyed and sent to the state lab to be tested for rabies. Because the attack is being regarded as a probable rabies case, both victims were treated at the emergency room at Twin County Regional Hospital for rabies, while awaiting for the state lab results.
Three cats were also exposed to the raccoon. One has been put down, another is still at large and the third, which had been vaccinated for rabies, is being held at the animal shelter until the test results come back, said Veronica Bryant, Galax animal control officer.
“Raccoons are nocturnal animals, and to see one in daylight is unusual. Being attacked by one is even more unusual, and although we won’t know for sure until we have the lab results, we don’t want to take any chances,” said Scott Honaker, environmental health manager for the Mount Rogers Health District.
“This attack is particularly alarming because it occurred in town, in a high-density population area with far more risk of exposure to people and other animals,” he said. “Residents need to be especially watchful.”
Cristina Hernandez, mother of the child attacked, said she never thought something like this could happen in the city.
“Earlier, I had read in a news article that urged parents to talk to their children about rabies,” said Hernandez, noting she had two children inside the home during the attack.
“It’s important for people to talk to their children about this. You hear about these things, but I never thought it would occur close by.”
Animals that are sick with rabies shed the virus in their saliva, so any animal bite should be taken seriously, said D. Craig Smith, director of the health district.
“If an animal bites you, wash the wound immediately with soap and water,” said Smith. “Call your physician, local health department or animal control agency immediately.”
The test results were expected were expected to be returned on Saturday.
The Galax City Health Department and the Mount Rogers Health District urge citizens to keep their pets’ vaccinations against rabies up to date and avoid contact with stray dogs and cats or any wild animals.

For more information about rabies protection or possible exposures, contact the Galax City Health Department at 236-6127 or log on to the Virginia Department of Health’s Rabies Control and Prevention Web site at www.vdh.state.va.us/epi/rabiesf.htm.