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The original item was published from 1/27/2020 1:12:54 PM to 2/22/2020 12:00:02 AM.

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Posted on: January 27, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Orange County receives first positive rabies test for 2020

Raccoon on a Stump

Orange County Animal Services has received its first positive rabies test result of the year, according to the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. This incident involved a raccoon and occurred in the vicinity of Schley Road and New Sharon Church Road in Hillsborough. The County recorded a total of six positive cases last year and four the year before.

The case originated on Wednesday, Jan. 22, when a Hillsborough resident heard her dogs barking. She found possible evidence that they had encountered another animal but did not receive confirmation until the next morning when one of her dogs brought a deceased raccoon to their home. The resident separated the dogs from the raccoon and called Animal Control to the scene. The responding officer found the raccoon and removed the animal for rabies testing.

Because the dogs are current on rabies vaccinations, they are able to receive booster rabies vaccinations within the required window. When there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” a dog, cat, or ferret with a valid vaccination history must receive a booster shot within 96 hours (4 days). By contrast, an unvaccinated cat or dog must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period up to four months (or six months for a ferret).

Because the resident and another family member handled the dogs after exposure to the raccoon, a Communicable Disease Nurse from the Orange County Health Department will contact them to evaluate the risk of rabies exposure. As is always the case, a decision about the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies is based upon an assessment of all factors involved in this situation.

Raccoons are a host (or reservoir) species to rabies in our area and the region. Any other mammal that becomes rabid in this area is likely the victim of the “spillover effect.” When an animal other than the dominant reservoir species, which is the raccoon in North Carolina, contracts the virus, it is called “spillover.” The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs, skunks, and foxes.

The other host species of rabies in our own region and others is the bat. Of the few cases of rabies in humans in our country in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure from a bat, it is critical that citizens immediately contact their animal control program. If an incident involving a bat – or other rabies vector, such as a raccoon or skunk – should occur outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away through Emergency Communications (9-1-1).


The next Low-Cost Rabies Vaccination Clinics will take place:

  • Saturday, February 22, 2020, from 9 a.m. to Noon at the Animal Services Center, 1601 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.
  • Thursday, March 26, 2020, from 5-7 p.m. at the Eno River Farmer’s Market, 144 E Margaret Lane in Hillsborough.

Animal Services will offer one and three-year rabies vaccines for $10 and microchips for $35. Three-year vaccinations require proof of a previous vaccine in the form of a printed certificate. More information and clinic requirements are posted at

For more information, please call Orange County Animal Services at 919.942.7387.


  • It is a law in North Carolina that dogs, cats and ferrets older than four months must have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times.
  • Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be revaccinated or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets.
  • Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well, so do not touch your animal without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to a rabies vector.
  • If a rabies suspect is alive, do not attempt to capture the animal. Keep visual contact with the animal until Animal Control arrives.
  • If you discover a bat inside your house, be sure not to release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area.
  • Always call Animal Control immediately if you find a bat in your home even if there is no evidence of a bite.

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