Lord Fairfax Health District Warns Residents of Rabies Risk

November 1, 2019

Media Contact: Risk Communications Manager Lorrie Andrew-Spear – lorrie.andrew-spear@vdh.virginia.gov

Health Department Offers Tips to Stay Safe

(Winchester, Va.) — On Oct. 23, 2019, two separate encounters occurred in Frederick County with animals later testing positive for rabies. The first was a skunk involved in an altercation with a dog near Chapel Rd (Route 627) and Sapling Lane, northwest of Middletown near the community of Marlboro. The second was a raccoon found in a shed off of Back Mountain Road (Route 600), near the eastern entrance to Shawneeland. Both animals were euthanized and later tested positive for rabies, according to the Lord Fairfax Health District.

“These animals no longer pose a threat,” stated Lord Fairfax Health District Director Dr. Colin Greene, “however, these cases offer a reminder that any contact with a raccoon, fox, skunk, or bat that could result in exposure to the animal’s saliva should be considered a potential rabies exposure. This applies to humans and domestic animals, and any person or animal so exposed should receive an immediate medical evaluation. The health department further advises:

  • Never approach or touch wild animals, especially any raccoon, fox, skunk or bat, especially if it is behaving oddly or if it is seen in the daylight. These animals are the main carriers of rabies in the eastern United States.
  • Avoid stray cats and dogs. Feral or unknown cats and dogs may also carry rabies. Report bites or scratches from these animals to your physician or the health department.
  • Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies (even if they don’t go outdoors) and keep their shots up to date. Vaccinate working barn cats as well, for their protection and yours.
  • Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs. Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home.
  • Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash.
  • If one of your domestic animals is bitten or otherwise interacts with a wild animal, notify the local health department and animal control officer at once, and have the animal seen by a veterinarian.

If you are bitten, scratched, or licked by any of these animals, seek medical attention immediately. Rabies is fatal to both animals and humans once symptoms begin, but it can be prevented in humans if they receive vaccine and medication soon after exposure.

Finally, if in doubt, or if you have a question, call the Frederick/Winchester Health Department at 540-722-3480.

Additional information on rabies is available from the Virginia Department of Health at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/rabies-control/.

The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.