Health Department: Troy girl attacked by rabid raccoon

Published 11:00 pm Monday, June 25, 2012

A young girl was attacked by a raccoon last week and health officials have confirmed the animal tested positive for rabies. The attack took place at North Ridge Circle in Troy.

“The raccoon actually walked up in the yard where the child was playing. The animal kept walking toward the child and when she started to back up, he lunged at her,” said John Mckeller, public health environmentalist for the Pike County Public Health Department.

The family dog protected the child and the raccoon retreated. Neighbors killed the animal.

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Mckeller said although the raccoon made contact with her leg, the girl didn’t suffer any visible puncture wounds from the encounter. She was treated by a doctor as a precaution.

“If there is one rabid raccoon, there’s going to be some other rabid raccoons and maybe even cats and dogs,” Mckeller said. “People should be very careful.”

Dr. Steve Barron, a veterinarian at the Troy Animal Clinic said rabies is a serious disease.

“The mortality rate, for people too, is almost 100 percent,” Barron explained. “If a person or animal is bitten and develops rabies, they are going to die within 10 days.”

Wild animals, whether they display any signs of the disease or not, can be carriers for years. Barron said there are two very important rules to follow to ensure the safety of people and pets.

“If it’s a wild animal or a stray animal, don’t mess with it because you never know what it is carrying,” Barron cautioned. “And vaccinate your dogs and cats. There is no excuse not to. It is very easy to get done and very inexpensive.”

Barron said if the family dog that acted to protect the young girl had not been vaccinated, there is a good chance the dog would have been euthanized.

“We don’t want that,” Barron said, “not when it can be so easily prevented.”

He also noted that unvaccinated animals that come in contact with saliva from an infected animal may not show warning signs of the disease for up to six months or even a year.

Barron warned that taking in wild animals as “pets” can be dangerous.

“They can be carriers for years and one day bite you,” Barron said.

Barron said he estimates about 10 to 12 cases of rabies in animals in Pike County each year, although most people never hear of them. “I think this is very serious,” Barron said.

Mckeller echoed those feelings.

“Once you develop rabies, there is nothing that can be done about it,” Mckeller said.

A notice from the Pike County Health Department issued on Monday suggests that if someone is bitten by a wild or stray animal, he or she should wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. The attack should also be reported to the Health Department and animal control officers.

Alabama State Law requires that all cats and dogs who are at least three months old be vaccinated against rabies each year