Rabies a ‘big deal’ in Maine, state officials say

Posted March 23, 2014, at 5:58 a.m.
Dr. Stephen Sears
Courtesy photo
Dr. Stephen Sears

FRYEBURG, Maine — A dog that was euthanized Tuesday after biting a 5-year-old Brownfield boy in the face tested negative for rabies, according to Animal Control Officer Kathleen Hathaway.

The 7-year-old pit bull was the most recent of 51 animals tested for rabies this year, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those animals, four tested positive.

“Rabies is a big deal in the state of Maine,” said state epidemiologist Stephen Sears. “Every year, we have people who are exposed to animals with rabies.”

The viral disease, spread mainly through bites, attacks the central nervous system and almost always results in death. Aggression toward humans and other animals is a common symptom of rabies, especially in dogs, Sears said.

The dog involved in Tuesday’s attack did not have an up-to-date rabies vaccination, and Hathaway said she did not know how long it had been since the dog was vaccinated.

In an email Friday, Lt. Michael McAllister of the Fryeburg Police Department said he believed the child was home and doing well.

Unfortunately, the prevalence and danger of the disease is often not fully appreciated until an incident like Tuesday’s brings it back into the public eye, Sears said.

The best way to reduce chances of exposure to rabies is to keep pets vaccinated, to limit unnecessary contact with wild animals, such as taking in a sick or wounded animal, and to contact animal control or the CDC if there is any suspicion someone may have been exposed to the disease.

In 2013, the state tested 576 animals for rabies, according to the annual rabies report compiled by the Maine CDC.

The animals on the list include dogs, raccoons, bats, skunks, cats, horses, goats, a donkey and seven cows.

Only 51 animals tested positive for the disease last year, and those positive results were limited to raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. No domestic animal tested positive in 2013, according to the state’s report.

For the full story, visit Sun Journal at www.sunjournal.com/news/oxford-hills-maine/2014/03/21/rabies-big-deal-maine-state-officials-say/1508252#

 

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