Sherrodsville, Ohio - Public health officials in Carroll County say a deceased raccoon collected this week in Sherrodsville has tested positive for the rabies virus.

Kelly Engelhart is the director of nursing and public health for the Carroll County Health Department. She says the department was contacted recently by a village resident whose dog had been in an altercation with a wild raccoon. 

Englehart says the resident killed the raccoon and provided the body to the health department to submit to the state for testing. Preliminary test results came back on Tuesday and indicated that the animal had tested positive for the rabies virus.

Englehart says the dog was not up to date on its rabies vaccination. It was treated by a local veterinarian on the day of the altercation with the raccoon and will be held in strict quarantine for a period of four to six months. No humans are believed to have been exposed to the virus.

Englehart says additional testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine whether the raccoon was infected with the raccoon variant of the rabies virus. 

Raccoon Rabies Variant, or RRV, is of particular concern to public health officials because it is the strain most commonly transmitted to domestic animals including dogs and cats.

“With raccoon strain rabies, it's very easy for the raccoon to come in contact with domestic animals, and domestic animals, especially cats, are the biggest factor for potentially spreading raccoon strain rabies to humans,” Englehart explains.

On August 1, the Tuscarawas County Health Department announced that RRV was confirmed in a deceased raccoon collected near Echo Lake Road in Warren Township, about seven miles away from where the raccoon in Carroll County was collected. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently conducted a bait drop to immunize wild raccoons in and around the area where the first rabies-positive raccoon was collected. 

John Paul Seman is a supervisory wildlife biologist for the USDA’s Sandusky District. He says location where the rabies-positive raccoon was collected in Carroll County was included in the recent vaccine drop. He notes that no additional baiting is planned for the area at this time.

“I think it all happened at a good time when the baiting just occurred, so I think we’re going to let the baits do their job,” he says. “They double-density baited that so instead of 75 baits per square kilometer, they did 150 baits per square kilometer.”

Seman says that the agency will continue its efforts to monitor wildlife in the area through enhanced surveillance, which includes collecting and testing roadkill and responding to reports from the county health departments concerning sick or strange-acting animals.

“That’s ongoing, and it has been ongoing for a number of years, but when we get a positive we ramp that up even a little more. We’ll be down there even more so than we were because of that Tuscarawas County positive and now the Carroll County positive.”

In light of the recent positive rabies confirmations, residents are being urged to have their pets vaccinated against the virus. 

“The biggest thing is for people to check to make sure that their animals have been vaccinated and are up to date,” Englehart explains, adding that puppies should receive a rabies booster within a year of when the initial dose was administered and adult dogs every three years. 

The Carroll County Humane Society will be hosting a low-cost rabies vaccination clinic for dogs and cats at the Carroll County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, September 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The cost is $7 per vaccine, and no appointment is required.
In addition to having their pets vaccinated against the virus, the health department is also urging residents to avoid contact with wild animals.

“Really the biggest risk is handling stray kittens and wild animals, raccoons obviously, just trying to stay away from those, not feeding stray animals,” Englehart says.

Meanwhile, the New Philadelphia Health Department is urging residents to take precautions and avoid handling bats after receiving a positive rabies confirmation for a bat collected from the city’s Schoenbrunn Estates development.

New Philadelphia Health Commissioner Vickie Ionno says the department was contacted Monday by a resident whose cat had caught a bat inside the residence. The bat was collected and sent to ODH for testing, and preliminary results received Thursday indicated that the bat was infected with the rabies virus.

Ionno says the cat was treated by a local veterinarian and will be held in strict quarantine for four to six months. She notes that the cat was not up to date on its rabies vaccination and says the case should serve as an important reminder to pet owners that even indoor animals need to be vaccinated.

“So many times when people have indoor cats, they don’t vaccinate them for rabies because they think they’re not exposed to anything, and we want to encourage people to vaccinate even their indoor cats because of this. There could be a bat within the home,” she says.

Ionno says bats should never be handled without gloves or some type other type of personal protection. 

“A bat specifically you don’t touch with a bare hand. You use gloves. You throw away the gloves. If you’re not using disposable gloves and you’re using regular gloves, you need to throw them away because it’s in the saliva,” she says. “If they have to collect it, they can use a shovel. They can use a bagged hand or a gloved hand.”

Ionno encourages homeowners to attempt to remove bats found indoors that do not appear to be sick or acting strangely, but to be sure to do so safely.   

“Bats are good for the environment, and we don’t want to make bats our enemy, but if they’re in your home and they’re near your pets, you need to be precautious,” she says. 

Residents are encouraged to contact their local health department with any questions or to report any unusual animal behavior. The New Philadelphia Health Department can be reached at 330-364-4491 ext. 1208, the Tuscarawas County Health Department at 330-343-5555 and the Carroll County Health Department at  330-627-4866.

Stacey Carmany, Tusco TV

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