Kennebec Journal: Rabies growing in area (March 17, 2010)

RANDOLPH — A family dog is under observation after it attacked and killed a rabid skunk Friday on School Street.

It was the second exhibition of rabies in Randolph in a month — two dogs also killed a rabid raccoon on the Old Narrow Gauge Rail Trail recently — and comes after two incidents of rabid skunks attacking dogs in Windsor, according to Howard Morang, animal control officer for Randolph.

The most recent incident occurred on a residential road near T.C. Hamlin Elementary School. Both Windsor attacks occurred near Windsor Fairgrounds.

Morang — who is animal control officer for Windsor, Vassalboro, Chelsea, Randolph, Pittston, Hallowell and Manchester — said he’s received complaints about other animals in the area, including a raccoon with a face full of porcupine quills reportedly chasing animals and people near Oak Grove Road in Vassalboro.

“It seems to be I’m inundated with rabies,” Morang said Friday.

So far this year in Maine, there have been 56 confirmed rabies cases — 10 in Kennebec County prior to Friday’s incident, according to Don Hoenig, state veterinarian. The recent high point for rabies in Maine was 248 in 1998.

Hoenig said rabies tends to occur in geographical pockets, as wild animals spread the disease to others in an area.

If that’s the case, Morang said, he almost certainly has a pocket of rabid wild animals between Randolph and Windsor.

“I’m sure there is,” Morang said. “It had quieted down for a few years, but all of a sudden I’m getting a ton of contact” with rabid animals.

He said he confirmed the skunk killed Friday had rabies after its carcass was tested.

Hoenig said pets that are current on their rabies vaccines and exposed to an animal with rabies are subject by law to a 45-day observation period — not a full quarantine — during which they may stay with their owners, subject to the discretion of the animal control officer, but must be kept in a restricted area and not exposed to other people or animals.

Hoenig said pets not up to date on their vaccine and exposed to a rabid animal are recommended for euthanasia. If an owner refuses to have the pet killed, he said it may be placed in a six-month quarantine.

During both quarantines, the animals are given a booster shot in an effort to help prevent the disease. Hoenig said there are only approved rabies vaccines for horses, cows, dogs, cats, ferrets and sheep.

The dog in the most recent incident received a booster shot this week, Morang said.

In the later stages of rabies, rabid animals become aggressive and irrational. They’ll break windows and run through screen doors to bite people and attack pets or livestock.

Morang advised people to keep pets under immediate control and to use caution when treating a pet exposed to rabies — even if it’s been vaccinated.

“If a dog goes out and gets into a fight with a rabid animal, it’s going to have a lot of bleeding cuts,” Morang said. “People who are … washing it out with their bare hands could be getting rabies.

“You don’t need to get bit or have your arm torn off in order to get rabies.”

To view the original article, click here.

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