Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
With cases of rabies showing up around Macon County, the Macon County Department of Public Health, Animal Services, and local vets have partnered to host low-cost rabies vaccination clinics for the community.
On March 17, the Macon County Department of Public Health announced the eighth case since December after a raccoon was seen acting erratically and was killed on a citizen’s property. The animal was picked up by Macon County Animal Services and sent for testing. No known exposure to humans or pets was indicated. The incident occurred in the Franklin Township.
While rabies is endemic to bats, skunks, and raccoons in North Carolina, the best prevention is the
rabies vaccination. In light of recent rabies-positive animals, Macon County Animal Services scheduled the first round of a series of vaccine clinics last weekend. With the help of the Animal House Veterinary Clinic and Noah’s Ark Companion Animal Hospital, 299 animals received rabies vaccinations.
A second rabies vaccination clinic will be held at Cartoogechaye Elementary School on April 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The low-cost clinic provides rabies vaccinations for $10.
Macon County Animal Services Section Administrator, Dr. Jimmy Villiard, said of the incident, “Given the dramatic increase in detected rabies in wildlife in Macon County, it is critical that pets are vaccinated against rabies and that their rabies shots are current. This helps protect them as well as their owners from exposure to rabies.”
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system in humans and other mammals. A person may contract rabies through a bite, scratch, or saliva from an infected animal. Potential rabies exposure should never be taken lightly; left untreated, rabies is fatal.
Animals do not have to be aggressive or behaving erratically to have the rabies virus. Changes in any animal’s normal behavior can be early signs of rabies. Any exposure to these animals should be reported to Macon County Animal Services, so that the animal can be located and tested for rabies.
Macon County pet owners should also be sure to check their pet’s last rabies vaccination is up-to-date, to prevent a possible rabies infection. In addition to keeping pets vaccinated, pet owners should keep cats and ferrets indoors and keep dogs under direct supervision, by spaying or neutering their pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly, and call animal control to remove all stray animals from their neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
Every day citizens should also be sure to prevent rabies in themselves by leaving wildlife alone, wash animal bites and scratches with soap and water, vaccinating pets, and contact your healthcare provider immediately after you are bitten, scratched, or otherwise exposed to an animal who may be positive for rabies. Rabies in people is preventable through prompt medical care.
Animal Services is open on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing daily for lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. Appointments are required, and can be made the same day. Macon County Animal Services can be reached at (828)349-2106.