County issues a rabies warning

Dogs killed raccoon that tested positive

February 21, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County's Health Department is searching for any residents in the Virginia Avenue area of Edgewater Beach who might have come into contact with two stray dogs that killed a raccoon Wednesday morning.

The raccoon tested positive for rabies, and county officials are concerned that the disease may have been passed to anyone who touched either dog -- particularly anyone who may have touched the dogs between 7 a.m. and noon Wednesday.

One of the dogs was described as a white mutt, possibly part husky and part shepherd, weighing about 65 pounds. The other was described as a younger, smaller, all-black dog, possibly part German shepherd. Both dogs had been spotted in the Edgewater Beach community.

Anyone who believes they may have been in contact with one of the dogs should visit a physician or call the county Health Department's emergency services hot line: 410-295-3140.

"This is an area that has had a lot of rabies over the years," said Dr. Joseph Horman, a Health Department veterinarian.

Horman said the county tried to combat the problem in October with a vaccination program, in which 8,800 pieces of bait were placed throughout wooded areas of the Annapolis neck -- stretching from Crownsville, through Annapolis, to Bay Ridge.

Anne Arundel County regularly has had more incidences of rabies than any county in the state. Last year, Anne Arundel had the most in Maryland: 73 cases. Sixty-four of those cases were from raccoons, which have become sociable in part because people feed them.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and is spread through the saliva of infected animals. Exposure in humans is treated through a series of shots over 28 days. Left untreated, rabies can be fatal to humans.

In 1995, rabies cases in Anne Arundel County doubled, and the number has remained about the same since then. In 1996, 89 animals tested positive for rabies. And in early 1997, dozens of residents were exposed to rabies and required shots.

Last year, nearly 100 people in Anne Arundel County who had been exposed to rabies required treatment. That number was up from 84 in 1997 and 78 in 1996, Horman said.

A statewide rabies epidemic among Maryland's wild animals in recent years has been blamed on some West Virginia hunters who 20 years ago brought two live raccoons from Florida. The animals, which they wanted for hunting, turned out to be rabid and spread rabies to other wild animals in the state. Before that, there were few cases in Maryland.

Cases of rabies began increasing in 1980. In 1984, there was a high of 964 cases of raccoon rabies in Maryland. The number of annual cases has held steady at 400 to 600 the past few years.

Pub Date: 2/21/99

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