SUFFOLK, Va. — A raccoon that attacked an outdoor pet on Tuesday tested positive for rabies, according to the Suffolk Health Department.
The attack happened in the backyard of a home in the 2600 block of Nansemond Drive and was unprovoked, the department said.
Health officials searched the neighborhood and talked with several people who claimed to have seen raccoons and foxes.
Exposure to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters a person's body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as with an animal bite.
Dr. Nancy Welch, the interim health director for the Suffolk Health Department, said rabies is highly preventable if the vaccine is given early and as recommended.
Without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, it's not curable, and the disease is fatal almost all the time.
The disease is also fatal in infected dogs and cats that haven't been vaccinated.
The department has several recommendations for Suffolk residents to avoid getting rabies:
- If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, check for injuries and contact Suffolk Animal Control at (757) 514-7855 or the Suffolk Health Department at (757) 514-4751.
- Seek medical treatment for any animal bite to make sure there's appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.
- Don't approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs.
- Make sure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. Consult your veterinarian or the Suffolk Health Department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.