Friday, January 04, 2008

Rabies in Arlington Forest

Two dogs quarantined, owners undergo prophylactic treatment.

A high incidence of rabies in the county last year ended with two dogs getting quarantined in Arlington Forest a week before Christmas. The two dogs attacked two rabid raccoons. The dog owners, who live on a Galveston Street cul-de-sac between Bluemont and Lubber Run parks, buried the raccoons and later thought to call health officials, the officials said.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which is contracted with Arlington to handle these cases, disinterred the raccoons and sent them to the state laboratory for testing, where they were found to have rabies.

Since the dogs have current rabies vaccinations, they are quarantined inside their own home for 45 days. The couple who own the dogs are undergoing prophylactic treatment. The attack occurred on Dec. 19.

In 2007, Arlington had 19 confirmed cases of rabies infection: one stray kitten, one bat, and 17 raccoons, according to officials and documents.

“The numbers are running high this year,” said Ann Beam, an Administrative Assistant at the Animal Welfare League. She said a high number is not that odd, although the county normally runs six to eight animals. She added, “It’s kind of cyclical.”

Animals found sick or dead are not automatically tested for rabies. If Animal Control catches an animal that is clearly sick, it will be euthanized and held for a couple days to see if anyone comes in to ask about testing, Ms. Beam said.

In 2006, the most recent numbers available, the nation (including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) reported 6,940 cases of rabies in animals and three human cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of cases were in wild animals, with raccoons leading the pack, the CDC reported.

Virginia has had two human deaths from rabies in the last 13 years. The most recent occurred in 2003. Hawaii is the only state that is rabies-free, according to the CDC web site.

Keeping dogs current on their vaccinations is key, Ms. Beam said. A dog that is not current on the vaccination must be quarantined for six months behind a double-doored “don’t touch them” enclosure, she said.

The “old saw” that raccoons do not come out during the daytime is wrong, Ms. Beam said. Especially in the spring when raccoons need food for babies, people might see them in the day. Stay away from wild animals, she warned. Call animal control if you see a raccoon that is “Acting like it really doesn’t know what it’s doing.” Call 703-931-9241.

Related stories or web sites…
  • The CDC Rabies Web Site
  • Animal Welfare League of Arlington

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