Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) 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 sheep and occurred in Hillsborough, NC. The County recorded a total of four positive cases last year and eight the year before.
OCAS was made aware of this incident on Monday, June 6, when the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health contacted Animal Control and notified them that a sheep from Hillsborough had tested positive for rabies. The sheep had died and was submitted for testing over the weekend.
Because the owners of the sheep had possible exposure to rabies due to handling the animal, a Communicable Disease Nurse from the Orange County Health Department will 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 the factors involved in this type of situation. Other livestock on this property will be evaluated by a veterinarian from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.
Rabies is a fatal, viral infection. It is important for the health of your family and your pets to make sure your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best source of information on vaccinations for your pet. When there is “a reasonable suspicion of rabies exposure” to a dog, cat, or ferret with a valid vaccination history, that pet must receive a booster shot within 96 hours (four days). By contrast, an unvaccinated cat or dog must either be euthanized or quarantined for a period up to four months (or six months for a ferret).
In North Carolina and other areas, rabies is commonly found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, groundhogs and beavers. A 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).
For more information, you may review the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention. You may also visit http://www.orangecountync.gov/307/Rabies.