Rabies alert: Health officials warn of possible spike in rabies cases

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The city of Petersburg was placed under a “rabies alert” on Thursday after a rabid cat was found in the community. Animal control officials believe the cat likely had contact with many other animals.

The Crater Health District includes several neighborhoods, including Dinwiddie, Emporia, and Prince George County. District spokesperson Toinette Waldon said there were 287 “wildlife incidents” this year.

An “incident” is an encounter between a wild animal and a human that could be infected with rabies. Positive tests are intermittent and limited, but dangerous. In the Crater Health District, he has five positive cases of rabies.

The current warning is largely precautionary against the expected spike in cases following the recent discovery of rabid cats. Conservation guidelines apply to multiple areas under the jurisdiction of Crater Health District.

“It’s a way of getting the information out to the community as quickly as possible,” says Waldon.

Residents of St. Petersburg are advised to keep their pets indoors or under close supervision. The disease is most often fatal to animals.

“Rabies is a deadly disease, but it is preventable,” said Waldon.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, vaccinations are the primary way livestock are protected from disease. If you believe that humans may have had contact with wildlife, there are vaccinations that can be administered retroactively to prevent the disease from doing any damage.

Exterior of the St. Petersburg Health Service. (Photo: Sierra Krug, 8News)

Minimizing contact with wildlife is another safe way to protect yourself. Cat Long of the Richmond and Henrico Health District told his 8News that contact with certain animals can carry greater risks than contact with others, particularly bats, foxes and raccoons.

Local health departments and animal control departments can track rabies cases in livestock and animals that have been tested for rabies, but they cannot fully track potential spread among wildlife in the area. explained that the inability to reliably calculate the full range of legitimate concerns only infuriates the importance of staying vigilant, especially for pet owners.

“It’s a bit difficult to tell because we usually find out about it after an incident, so it’s difficult to estimate how much rabies is present in our wildlife populations.

Animal rabies cases were confirmed this summer in Hanover, Henrico, Richmond, Dinwiddie and Petersburg. While many associate the disease with wildlife-rich rural areas, one interaction could lead to wider exposure.

“It can happen anywhere,” Long said. “Rabies can occur in rural, suburban and urban areas.”

However, it is much rarer in humans. No regions will have confirmed human rabies cases in 2022. The Virginia Department of Health says to contact your local health department and animal control unit if you think you may have been exposed to a ferocious animal.

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