Rabid Raccoon

Health officials are asking Wiregrass residents to stay away from stray animals. That's after another animal tests positive for rabies in Houston County.

Fliers warning residents about rabies are going up along Dove Drive just South of Dothan.

Wednesday, homeowners found the body of an infected raccoon in the neighborhood.

This is the fourth case of rabies in Houston County this year.

Peggy Blakeney at the Houston County Health Department says "Last year was a down year, we only had 3 cases. This year it appears to be picking up. In 1999, we had 30 cases of rabies in the county."

Rabies is often fatal in humans. Fortunately, health department officials believe the raccoon did not come in contact with anyone in the area.

Experts say the best way to protect yourself and your family is to get your pets vaccinated.

Under state law, dogs and cats three months and older must be immunized yearly.

And veterinarians say those who feed neighborhood strays are at risk if they don't make sure those animals get their shots too.

Dr. Ken Clark of Care Animal Center says "they could get in a fight with a raccoon at night, the raccoon is gone, then this little normally docile kitty or dog you go to pet...bite or snips you."

If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, health officials say you need to vigorously wash your hands with soap and water for at least five minutes and then seek medical help immediately.

If you see an animal acting strangely, experts warn you not to handle it. Instead, they ask you to contact animal control authorities.


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