Surge in Rabies Cases Reported in North Carolina

Responding to an increase in rabies cases, officials in North Carolina’s Mitchell and Yancey counties are advising residents to keep food and pets away from wild animals.

In the past four months, eight pets have been euthanatized and 12 people have been treated for rabies because of bites or contact with infected animals in those counties. Mitchell health officials have reported 14 cases of rabies in animals this year, already surpassing the 10 cases confirmed in 2006.

Mitchell sheriff's Chief Deputy Donald Street euthanatized his dog two months ago after a dead raccoon that tested positive for rabies was found at his mother-in-law's home in Bakersville. The dog might have come in contact with the raccoon and its vaccination had expired.

"I had that dog for 12 years," Street said. "It was hard to have him put down."

Carl Williams, DVM, a veterinarian with the North Carolina Division of Public Health, said rabies is a cyclical disease and it is normal to experience two years of an increase then a decline. Still, Williams said the increase in rabies cases is likely to continue because of the state's large raccoon population.

"The closer we are to living with wild animals, the more likely it will happen," said Penny Bailey, the health educator for the Yancey County Health Department.

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The Associated Press

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