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Rabid raccoon found in Bandera County

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

This image depicts a rabid raccoon, but not the one found recently on Elm Pass Road in Bandera County.

A raccoon found in the 500 block of Elm Pass Road has tested positive for the rabies virus, according to Bandera County Rabies Control Officer Conrad Nightingale, DVM.
In an interview on Wednesday, August 10, Nightingale said that one dog had been exposed to the virus. The dog will be subject to mandatory quarantine or humane euthanasia, depending on a decision of the owners. No humans were exposed to the virus.
Although epidemiology tests are incomplete, Nightingale believes the raccoon had been infected with the skunk strain of rabies virus. “He smelled like skunk,” Nightingale noted. A specimen of the raccoon’s brain tissue has been submitted to the Texas Department of Health in Austin for testing.
In North America, variations of rabies virus can be found in several wildlife reservoirs, including raccoons, skunks and a number of bat species.
Additionally, the raccoon had apparently encountered a porcupine recently, Nightingale said. “Raccoons know to avoid porcupines so this raccoon was probably already sick when they met up.”
Due to the seriousness of the situation, Nightingale advised pet owners to take precautions. “There is so much rabies in Kerr County and animals move freely from one place to another. Everyone should remain vigilant,” he said. Nightingale urged people to refrain from feeding pets outside. “Varmints are hungry and will move close to houses in search of something to eat, especially foxes,” he said. “This will increase the chances of pets being exposed to the virus.”
He also advised everyone to observe wildlife behavior closely. If a typically nocturnal animal, such as a raccoon or skunk, is active during the day and exhibiting abnormal behavior, residents should contact the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office at 830-796-7331 or dial 9-1-1.
Also, Texas state statutes mandate that animals over 3 months old be vaccinated against the rabies virus. At the age of 1 year, pets must receive an immunization booster and then be put on a 1- to 3-year vaccination cycle.
“I recommend a yearly vaccination,” Nightingale said. “According to government standards, currently produced rabies vaccines are only required to be 89 percent effective. That means there is an 11 percent chance the vaccine will not protect a pet against rabies.”
Not only does he recommend vaccinating companion animals against the deadly virus, but livestock and equine as well.
In 2010, Nightingale reported that a horse from Medina had tested positive for rabies. In an earlier interview, he said, “This is the first time in 37 years that I’ve seen a rabid horse in this county.”
The next year, five cases of rabid horses were reported in Texas although none in Bandera County.
Rabies affects the central nervous system. In advanced stages, wildlife may appear to be agitated – biting or snapping at imaginary and real objects and drooling excessively. Other signs may include the animal appearing drunk or wobbly, circling, seeming partially paralyzed, acting disorientated or mutilating itself. On the other hand, in earlier stages of the progressively fatal disease, wildlife may appear tame and seem to have no fear of humans.
Any warm-blooded mammal can carry or contract rabies, but primary carriers in North America are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes.
Due to their lower body temperature, opossums are resistant to rabies. Hissing, drooling and swaying are part of the opossum's self-protection routine. These behaviors are intended to scare away potential predators, yet they resemble the signs and symptoms of rabies. For these reasons, people think they’re seeing “rabid opossums” when they’re not.
To protect individuals and pets against rabies during the continued long hot summer, take these precautions:
• Don’t approach or handle wild animals.
• Vaccinate pets – both cats and dogs – and any free roaming cats under your care.
• If you see a wild animal that appears sick, contact local law enforcement for assistance. Don’t handle sick wildlife!
• For bites from a wild animal, seek medical advice from a physician or health department immediately.
• If a wild animal bites a pet, seek medical advice from a veterinarian immediately.
• Scrub any bite wound immediately and aggressively with soap and water, use antiseptic soap such as betadine or Nolvasan®, if available. Flush the wound thoroughly with water.
• If a potentially rabid animal bites anyone, scrub and flush the wound then go to a physician doctor or emergency room.
• If possible, the animal should be captured and tested for rabies; however, unless this can be accomplished without risking further bites, leave this task to animal control professionals.
• If a bat is found in a room where someone was sleeping or where children might have had contact with it, the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you assume the bat has bitten the sleeper or children and follow the steps for a known bite. CDC officials suspect that adults may overlook and children may underreport the bites of tiny bat teeth.
More information on the rabies virus is available at humanesociety.org.