Orange County receives third positive rabies test for 2017

ORANGE COUNTY, NC (February 21, 2017) — Orange County Animal Services has received its third positive rabies test result of the year, according to the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. This incident involved a skunk.

The case originated on Monday, Feb. 20, when a Schley area resident found her dog interacting with a juvenile skunk in her yard. As she was gathering up her dog, the skunk ran up to her and appeared to scratch her on the leg. She then confined the skunk under a laundry basket and called Animal Control, which removed and tested the animal.

A Communicable Disease Nurse from the Orange County Health Department has contacted the resident to evaluate her risk of rabies exposure. Given that there was skin breakage and bleeding from the wound inflected by the skunk, the nurse recommended post-exposure prophylaxis that protects people from rabies. The victim is beginning this series of shots.

Because her dog is currently vaccinated against rabies, it will be able to receive a booster rabies shot and only needs to be under the close control of its owner and observed for a period of 45 days. When there is “a reasonable suspicion of exposure,” according to North Carolina’s rabies laws, a dog, cat, or ferret with a valid vaccination history must receive a booster shot within a limited period of time or be treated as unvaccinated. By contrast, an unvaccinated animal must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period up to four months.

Skunks often test positive for rabies, but in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern region of the United States it is raccoons that form the host (or reservoir) species for rabies. 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 contracts the virus, it is called “spillover.” Besides skunks, the other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs 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 decades, 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 can be reached right away through Emergency Communications (9-1-1).

Low-cost rabies vaccination clinic schedule

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

  • Saturday, March 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Phydeaux, 400 S. Elliott Road, Chapel Hill. This is a fundraising event offering only one-year vaccines and no microchips
  • Thursday, March 16 from 5 to 7 pm at Farmer's Market, Margaret Lane, Hillsborough. Both one- and three-year vaccines are available as well as microchips (cash only).

For more information, please call Orange County Animal Services at 919.942.7387. Clinic dates for all of 2017 are posted at


  • 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 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