County leads Md. in confirmed rabies cases in '97

January 27, 1998|By Melissa Corley | Melissa Corley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Anne Arundel County led the state in confirmed number of rabies cases in 1997, the fourth year in a row that the number has increased, according to the county's Animal Control Department.

Ninety-seven animals were detected with the disease last year, said Tahira Williams, animal control administrator, compared with 88 in 1996. That jump makes Anne Arundel the worst county for rabies in the state, ahead of Frederick County, which led in number of cases in 1996.

While rabies cases involving animals increased last year, the number of people needing treatment for possible exposure to rabies decreased from 84 in 1996 to 71 last year, said Spencer Franklin, a county Health Department deputy director.

Increasing numbers of rabid animals over the past few years prompted the county last April to set up a vaccination clinic from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays at the Glen Burnie Animal Shelter. Since its opening, the clinic has vaccinated about 1,500 animals.

The Animal Control Department is warning people not to approach any stray or wild animal, even if it is injured.

"Three of the [rabies] cases were cats, which we found very alarming," Williams said.

She said people need to be careful about updating their pets' vaccinations. Owners who allow their pets to roam outdoors especially need to keep up with rabies shots, Williams said.

Among the other rabid animals collected by the Animal Control Department last year were 79 raccoons, six skunks, eight foxes and a bat.

Animal Control officers either picked up the animals while patrolling the county or after tips from residents.

Williams said she could not estimate how many pets in the county have not been vaccinated because most people go to private veterinarians and because the number of dogs and cats in the county is hard to estimate.

The number of pets vaccinated by the county at clinics and special events rose from 1,962 in 1996 to 2,700 in 1997.

Williams said residents should report any injured animal or uninjured strays to the Animal Control Department. If the animal is in the way of traffic, it should be moved only if this can be done without risking contact or injury.

When calling the Animal Control Department, Williams said, residents should keep track of the location of the stray or secure it in a cage or garage -- but only if it can be done without touching the animal.

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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