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Rabid raccoon found in W.Va.

April 16, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two dogs were destroyed Thursday near a trailer home on Douglas Grove Road after Berkeley County officials discovered they had been in a fight with a rabid raccoon.

The Berkeley County Health Department ordered the dogs to be destroyed but opted not to have the dead dogs tested for rabies, Berkeley County Animal Control Chief Ray Strine said.

"We're just hoping everything turns out good," Strine said.

Strine is worried the dogs might have infected other animals with the disease.

The raccoon found near Douglas Grove Road is at least the fourth rabid animal reported in Berkeley County this year, officials said.

"We've had one fox and three or four raccoons tested, and they all came back rabid. That's not good," said Strine.

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The Health Department referred all calls on the matter to Sanitarian Supervisor Twila Carr, who could not be reached for comment.

An 8-year-old Martinsburg girl was bitten by a rabid fox last month while she and her friends were playing in a yard on Fairview Drive.

Desirae Hite and her father, Michael, had to receive a series of rabies shots as a result of the attack.

The latest incident with the rabid raccoon happened last weekend, but it was not reported to county officials until Monday when Paul Lindsey told Berkeley County Animal Control two dogs had killed a raccoon on his property.

After lab tests in Charleston, W.Va., revealed the raccoon was rabid, Strine said the Berkeley County Health Department told animal control officers on Wednesday to remove any dogs that might have been in contact with the raccoon.

Strine said Lindsey resisted the seizure, claiming the dogs were adequately quarantined.

The dogs, Strine said, had been chained to a junked car without doors and were near other dogs and cats roaming the property.

Animal control officials then contacted the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and were told the dogs could only be seized if they had bitten a person, Strine said.

Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy John Vanorsdale, however, said there was a misunderstanding with the wording of the law and deputies returned to Lindsey's property on Thursday and destroyed the dogs.

Animals that bite rabid animals must be destroyed if they do not have proof of rabies shots, Vanorsdale said.

Quarantine only applies if the animal has had shots or if the animal has bitten a person and the animal needs to observed to see if it develops rabies, he said.

Animal control officials are unsure why there have been so many cases of rabies this year.

People with questions about the disease should call the Health Department at 1-304-267-7130, Strine said.

"The big thing is that people need to be more cautious," he said.

Rabies travels through the nervous system and attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals and is commonly carried by raccoons, skunks and bats.

Animals that carry the virus can appear either unusually aggressive or stuporous and sluggish.

The disease, which is fatal if untreated, has spread throughout the eastern states for several years and has been reported in many West Virginia counties.

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