Health Department Warns of Rabid Raccoons

For the second time the past few weeks, health experts are warning people to be on the lookout for rabid animals. Two raccoons tested positive for rabies in Chatham County. A dog fought with a rabid raccoon on Burnside Island. The dog killed the raccoon, but in the process exposed an entire family to rabies.

Signs are going up around the area as the health department tries to get the word out. "The dog was viciously attacked and [the raccoon] grabbed the dog in the snout," said Sharon Varn with the Chatham County Health Department. "Actually, that raccoon weighed 30 pounds, it looked healthy but it wasn't."

The family tried to help their dog and in the process three of them became exposed, but it didn't stop there. "Because I handled the dog's wounds without wearing gloves, I and two of my assistants were also exposed," said Dr. Pam Fandrich of the Crossroad Animal Hospital.

Experts say just one rabid animal can lead to several exposures in a very short amount of time. Varn points to cases where as many as 12 family members have been exposed.

While treatment has improved, it's still not exactly the easiest process. But it's absolutely vital for people who have been exposed.

"There is no cure for rabies," said Dr. Fandrich. "If a human being contracts rabies, they die. So you don't want to take chances with your lives or your family's lives."

The health department says people should avoid any wild animals they see, should make sure outdoor trash cans are kept shut tight, and most importantly, keep vaccinations up to date for your pets.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite,