Raccoon that attacked dogs in Sullivan tests positive for rabies

J. H. Osborne • Dec 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Two dogs will be put to sleep after a raccoon that attacked them at their Kingsport-area home tested positive for rabies, local health officials said Thursday.

Neither dog had a current vaccination against the deadly disease.

It’s the fifth confirmed case of rabies in Sullivan County this year.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department (SCRHD) is again urging all pet owners to make sure all their pets are current on rabies vaccinations.

According to a statement issued by the SCRHD:

•Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that affects the central nervous system, and if left untreated, ultimately results in death.

•Over 90 percent of rabies cases occur in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of rabies cases. Most often reported domestic rabies cases include cats, dogs and cattle.

•According to the Tennessee Department of Health State Lab, a raccoon tested positive for rabies after having attacked two dogs just outside the Kingsport city limits.

•The raccoon entered areas where the dogs were tied up and attacked both animals. One of the dogs was mauled by the rabid raccoon. It cannot be confirmed that the second dog was bitten.

•In such cases, the only option to being put to sleep is for non-vaccinated pets bitten by a rabid animal to be placed in strict isolation for six months. This is done for protection for the animals as well as their owners and others with whom they may come in contact.

•Pets as well as livestock can easily be protected against rabies through vaccination. Tennessee law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies and their shots be kept up-to-date. Consult a veterinarian regarding vaccination of your pets and livestock.

“It is imperative that pet owners check your animal’s vaccination records to see if they are current. If not currently vaccinated, get all of your animals vaccinated immediately, especially if they are outdoors,” said Mary Ellen Ress, nurse epidemiologist at the SCRHD. “There was a positive rabid bat handled by two teenagers in April of this year. Also in April several people were exposed to a Wythe County, Virginia, coyote puppy crated at a local fund-raising event in Bristol, ‘Bouncing Hounds, Calico Cats.’ We also saw a positive raccoon inside the Bristol, Tennessee, city limits. There was a positive bat found in Kingsport and now a positive raccoon just outside the Kingsport city limits. These cases highlight the importance of having your animals vaccinated.”

Tips from the health department on rabies prevention:

• Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs and cats. This requirement is important not only to keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection to you, if your animal is bitten by a rabid wild animal.

• Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.

• Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.

• Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

• Avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals.

• Enjoy wild animals (raccoons, skunks, foxes) from afar. Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.

• Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.

• Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.

• Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might come in contact with people and pets.

• Consultation for possible rabies exposure is available through your local health department and with the Tennessee State Health Department veterinarian.

• For more information contact the Sullivan County Regional Health Department in Blountville at 279-2777 or in Kingsport at 224-1600.

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