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CDC confirms 3 rabies cases in Waldo County

By Fran Gonzalez | May 14, 2020
Courtesy of: stock image A fox in the Searsmont area was confirmed to have rabies by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention the week of May 8. The animal is the third case in Waldo County this year.

Searsmont — Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined recently that a fox in the Searsmont area tested positive for the rabies virus. Two other cases have been confirmed in Liberty and Waldo.

Searsmont Animal Control Officer Robin Dow said the animal bit a dog last week, and the owner in turn, killed the fox. While the dog’s rabies vaccination was up-to-date, the owner took his pet to a veterinarian, where it received a booster shot and antibiotics.

This case, according to Dow, was the first one in the town this year. “Over the last few years I myself have had one confirmed raccoon and now this confirmed fox last week. I have had reports of a bat, a  raccoon and a skunk in the past; however, people tend to panic and when killing the suspected rabid animal, smash their brain, and the CDC is unable to test the animal then."

The brain, Dow said, has to be intact for the CDC to properly analyze the animal. In the recent fox incident, the owner threw rocks at the animal and when it “went down," Dow said, "he stomped on it with his boots.” The brain, however, was still intact.

The best advice to pet owners, she said, is to keep current with your pet's rabies vaccination. She also said rabies is not detectable just by looking at an animal, though in many cases they exhibit strange, “drunk” or aggressive behavior.

“They may growl at you, chase you or other animals and look disheveled, or mange-like,” she said. “Unless a suspected rabid animal has bitten or scratched another animal or human, the animal can be killed and buried, as the rabies will leave the body after 24 hours.”

She warned people against taking any part of the animal, such as the tail or a foot, as a trophy, saying the CDC frowns upon this behavior.

Fowl and possums, she said, are not susceptible to the disease and added that, if someone suspects a wild animal that is in their yard has rabies, they can call their local animal control officer, town office, sheriff's department or game warden.

“It is wise to keep an eye out on your children, dogs and cats, when in the yard, as sometimes an incident can happen very quickly,” Dow said. “When I myself am out chasing one down, I try to go door-to-door in the neighborhood, in order to let folks know to be on the lookout.”

In Liberty, ACO Heidi Anderson Blood said she was called to a Fishtown Road residence last month, where residents had noticed a feral cat having a litter of kittens under a trailer, and it was behaving strangely.

Blood was able to capture the cat in a live trap and discovered that it had a bite of an unknown origin. The cat was transported to Midcoast Animal Emergency Clinic, where it was euthanized. The CDC later confirmed the cat had rabies.

The litter of three kittens were captured and euthanized as well, Blood said. The likelihood is "extremely high" that the mother and all her kittens had the virus, with the transmission being through saliva, she said.

Besides these two cases, the CDC has also confirmed rabies in a raccoon in the town of Waldo.

Blood said the number is on track with typical cases found in spring. The CDC website shows that in the past three years, Waldo County has had two, five and two cases, respectively.

"Wildlife is just waking up and being active in springtime," she said. "This is nothing to be alarmed about."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says that while rabies in cats is "extremely rare," and there has not been a single confirmed case of cat-to-human rabies in the U.S. in the past 40 years, once the disease is established, there is no effective treatment.

Blood, who is an ACO for seven towns in Waldo County and three in Knox, said she is aware of only one other case, a raccoon in Appleton that recently tested positive for rabies. She echoed what Dow said about preventing the spread of the disease by keeping pets current with vaccinations and avoiding contact with animals suspected to be infected with the disease.


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