Six rabies cases have been confirmed in raccoons so far this year in Orange County, according to Animal Services. In total, twelve positive rabies cases were recorded in 2013, so we have already hit half of that figure this year, and it is only March.

Bob Marotto, Director of Animal Services, said that rabies is a cyclical disease that ebbs and flows, demonstrating the importance of consistently taking precautionary measures.

“It certainly seems like we are having an uptick in the number of rabies cases. That may well be related to the cycling of rabies in the host species. We see that in the historical data available for Orange County and for the state of North Carolina,” Marotto said.

In 2005-2007, Marotto said that there were more than 20 confirmed cases reported each year. In the 1990s, when raccoon rabies first erupted in our region, he estimated that there were upwards of 90 confirmed cases per year.

The sixth rabies case in 2014 was reported on Saturday, March 22, when Carrboro residents spotted a raccoon in their driveway. They called Animal Control to have the raccoon picked up, and it later tested positive for rabies. The residents’ dog did have contact with the raccoon before Animal Control removed it, and both parties involved briefly touched their dog afterward, before washing their hands.

The dog was currently vaccinated against rabies and will receive a booster shot pursuant to North Carolina’s rabies laws.

According to these laws, if there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” a dog or cat with a current vaccination must receive a booster shot within 120 hours, equating to five days. By contrast, an unvaccinated animal must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period of six months.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets older than four months are legally required to be up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.

If you or your pet encounters an animal believed to be rabid, you should report it to Animal Services immediately by calling 919.942.7387. It is also advised that pets not be allowed to roam free where they can be exposed to wildlife.

The Animal Services Department holds periodic low-cost vaccination clinics throughout the year.

The next Rabies Vaccination Clinic will take place on Thursday, April 17, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Animal Services Center in Chapel Hill.  The cost for rabies vaccinations is $10.

Click here for a complete list of 2014 clinic dates.