By Elizabeth Bonin, Staff Writer
(July 11, 2019) The Worcester County Health Department confirmed the eighth case of rabies this year, when a groundhog found in Ocean Pines on Manklin Creek Road tested positive on July 3.
The seventh case was a fox found on May 20 in the Pocomoke area on Cherry Street. The first case this year was a raccoon found on Jan. 12 near Teal Circle in Ocean Pines. Others include a raccoon on Feb. 22 in Pocomoke, a fox on April 14 in Newark, a raccoon on April 16 in Pocomoke, and a fox on April 22 in Snow Hill.
According to Public Information Office Travis Brown, this year’s total is average. He added that rabies cases are cyclical, with some years spiking and others dropping.
Last year was “a bit of a peak” at 26 confirmed cases, but nowhere near 2013 with 56 cases or 2009 with 52 cases.
The health department states rabies warning signs as “fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, and seizures.” If these signs are recognized, the department emphasizes calling them at 410-641-9559 and Worcester County Animal Control at 410-632-1340.
The health department website includes several recommendations when dealing with suspected rabid animals:
- If you see a wild animal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, groundhog, opossum, or a feral cat behaving in a threatening or obviously sick manner, or should your pet be involved in an altercation with one of those animals, report immediately to your local police department or Sheriff’s office.
- Prevent further contact by keeping pets and people away. If a pet or person has already had contact, it is important that the rabies suspect animal be obtained (safely) for rabies testing.
- If a pet has had contact, do not touch the pet barehanded. Make sure the health department is contacted for further instructions if contact has occurred. Your pet’s veterinarian may also be contacted for further advice.
Rabies is most commonly spread through bites.
The best prevention is to vaccinate pets. The health department plans to hold a low-cost vaccination clinic in October.
For more information on rabies, visit worcesterhealth.org.