Two cases of rabid raccoons confirmed in area; rabies clinics scheduled in county

From Staff Reports

   The Tennessee Department of Health last week confirmed the first two cases of raccoon rabies found in the state.
   Testing on a cat brain near Mountain City revealed raccoon variant rabies on Wednesday, April 30. The brain, loaded with virus, was sent to the state lab earlier in the week. The second case was also confirmed late last week after a raccoon killed by a dog in Roan Mountain tested positive.
   Raccoon rabies has been verified for seven years, since 1996, in adjacent Ashe and Watauga counties of North Carolina. Public health officials say it is surprising that it has taken this long to show up within the state.
   Beth Bader, Public Information Officer for the Tennessee Department of Health, said residents in Carter and Johnson counties need to be aware that raccoon rabies has spread into their area from neighboring North Carolina and precautions do need to be taken. Wherever there is raccoon rabies, there usually ends up being more cases of rabies in cats and dogs.
   It is normal for raccoons (and some other animals) to come close to homes looking for food, but if the animal appears sick, unsteady and aggressive they should be avoided. Any raccoon that fights with a cat or dog should be killed and tested for rabies.
   Residents should also avoid any sick animals or one with abnormal behavior. Health officials also warn not to approach or pet these animals and to keep pets and children away from them. If someone is attacked and/or bitten by an abnormal acting animal of any species, the animal should be killed, taken to a local veterinarian office and testing should occur on the animal. The individual should seek medical attention through their primary care provider or the emergency room.
   Health officials advise vaccinating your pets on a yearly basis, and "it is of utmost importance now with the occurrence of raccoon rabies in Northeast Tennessee," said Rader.
   The Tennessee Department of Health co-sponsors rabies clinics in each county annually in the spring. Clinics are being coordinated throughout Northeast Tennessee at this time. The public is urged to either take their animals to their vets' office or to one of the clinics for vaccination.
   The schedule for rabies clinics in Carter County is as follows:
   May 10 -- Hampton Elementary from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with Dr. Royer.
   May 15 & 22 -- Sycamore Shoals Animal Clinic all day with appointment.
   May 17 -- Pinecrest Veterinary Clinic from 12 noon to 3 p.m. with Dr. Kapoor; at the Elizabethton Veterinary Clinic from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
   May 31 -- Roan Mountain Animal Hospital from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
   The fee for both cats and dogs will be $6.50.
   In Johnson City, rabies clinics are already under way.
   Clinics in Johnson County are scheduled Wednesday, May 7, at the Doe Valley School at 6 p.m. and at the Butler Ham House at 7 p.m. Other clinics will be Thursday, May 8, at Neva School at 6 p.m. and at the Dry Run Fire Department at 7 p.m.; Friday, May 9, at Shady Valley School at 6:30 p.m.; and Saturday, May 10, at 11 a.m. at Mountain City Elementary School.
   The cost for the rabies vaccination is $7.