ORANGE COUNTY, NC (January 12, 2017)—Orange County Animal Services has received its first positive rabies test result of the year, according to the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. This incident involved a raccoon.  The County recorded a total of 6 positive cases last year and 10 the year before. 

The case originated on Tuesday, January 10, when a Chapel Hill resident saw one of his two dogs carrying a dead raccoon around in its mouth.  Animal Control was called and removed the raccoon to have it tested for rabies. 

Because of the vaccination history of the pets, both dogs will be able to receive booster shots pursuant to North Carolina’s rabies laws.  When there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” a dog, cat, or ferret with a valid vaccination history must receive a booster shot within 96 hours (4 days).  By contrast, an unvaccinated animal must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period up to four (4) months. 

A Communicable Disease Nurse from the Orange County Health Department will be contacting the resident to evaluate his risk of rabies exposure and whether there is a need for the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies.  Of concern in this case is the possibility of secondary exposure from the resident petting his dog after the incident.  As is always the case, a decision about the post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies is based upon an assessment of all the factors involved in this type situation.

Raccoons are a host (or reservoir) species to rabies in our area and the region. Any other animal that becomes rabid in this area is likely the victim of the “spillover effect.” When an animal other than the dominant reservoir species, which is the raccoon in North Carolina, contracts the virus, it is called “spillover.” The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs, skunks, and foxes.

The other host species of rabies in our own region and others is bats. Of the few cases of rabies in humans in our country in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure from a bat, it is critical that citizens immediately contact their animal control program. If an incident involving a bat – or other rabies vector, such as a raccoon or skunk – should occur outside regular hours of service, an Animal Control Officer should be reached right away through Emergency Communications (9-1-1).


The next Low-Cost Rabies Vaccination Clinic will take place:

  • January 28, 2017, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Phydeaux, 400 S. Elliott St in Chapel Hill.  This is a fundraiser event to raise money for Animal Services and will offer one-year rabies vaccines and microchips.  The cost for rabies vaccinations is $10 and the cost for microchips is $25.  Clinic dates for all of 2017 are posted at

For more information, please call Orange County Animal Services at 919.942.7387.


  • It is a law in North Carolina that dogs, cats and ferrets older than four months must have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times
  • Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be revaccinated within four days (96 hours) or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets
  • Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well, so do not touch your animal without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to a rabies vector
  • If a rabies suspect is alive, do not attempt to capture the animal.  Keep visual contact with the animal until Animal Control arrives. 
  • If you discover a bat inside your house, be sure not to release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area
  • Always call Animal Control immediately if you find a bat in your home even if there is no evidence of a bite