Orange County Animal Services has received its third positive rabies test result of the year, according to the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. This incident involved a skunk and occurred in the vicinity of Walnut Grove Church Road and NC-86 in Hillsborough, NC. The county recorded a total of 6 positive cases last year and 4 the year before.
The case originated on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when a Hillsborough resident discovered that her dog had killed a skunk in his outdoor enclosure. The resident called Animal Control, who arrived and removed the skunk for rabies testing.
Because the dog had a current vaccination, he is able to receive a booster rabies vaccination 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 dog after exposure to the skunk, a Communicable Disease Nurse from the Orange County Health Department is in contact 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 type of situation.
Skunks that become rabid in this area are likely the victims 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, cats, groundhogs 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).