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Tests say raccoon had rabies

July 07, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT

Just five days before Debbie Skomski's puppy was scheduled for a rabies vaccination, the dog was bitten by a rabid raccoon outside a Williamsport home.

During a scuffle with the raccoon, four adults and another dog came in contact with the animal, and could have contracted rabies. The older dog already was vaccinated, and the adults since have received vaccinations, Skomski said.

The 4-month-old puppy, Tess, was bitten outside of Skomski's home in the Van Lear Manor subdivision.

Rod MacRae, spokesman for the Washington County Health Department, confirmed Thursday that the raccoon was rabid, and said there have been several other rabid animals in that area.

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On Saturday, Skomski said she, her husband, Bill, and two of their friends were having a cookout. They went inside and left their two dogs outside to play.

When Bill looked outside, he saw a raccoon attacking the puppy, his wife said.

"That thing was clamped down on my puppy's paw," Debbie Skomski said.

Her husband kicked the raccoon.

"He didn't even think about it," Skomski said. "He just wanted that thing off of our dog."

One of her friends, Kevin Cornwell, grabbed the raccoon by the side and threw it into the Skomskis' pool.

"He took a lawn chair to hit it until it was semiunconscious, then drowned it," Skomski said.

Only the puppy was bitten, she said, and the couple took the dead raccoon with them to an emergency animal hospital in Frederick County, Md.

Frederick County Animal Control came to the hospital and took the raccoon, she said.

Skomski said officials told her the raccoon was a female, and possibly was nursing babies.

Days later, the raccoon was examined, and it was confirmed that the animal had rabies.

"They said if the raccoon has rabies, we may have to put your dog to sleep," Skomski said. "But this is my baby."

Skomski, her husband and her friends also were instructed to be vaccinated against rabies. She said that any of them could have been infected through either the raccoon's saliva during the scuffle, or the dog's saliva if it had been infected.

"My husband and Kevin both had skin-to-fur contact," Skomski said.

On Tuesday night, she said the four went to Washington County Hospital, but were told that there was not enough vaccine for all of them. Debbie Skomski was the only one to not receive the vaccine that day. She had to come back Thursday when the vaccine had been shipped to the hospital.

"And we're just freaking out," she said. "You die from rabies."

Skomski said she was told she had anywhere from eight to 10 days from the point of contact to take the vaccine.

Hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said Thursday night that people have seven days to take the vaccine, which is a series of shots. She said the Washington County Health Department oversees the hospital's supply of rabies vaccines.

Theriault was unable to provide information about the amount of vaccine at the hospital Thursday.

Before going to the hospital Tuesday, Skomski said the four went for the vaccine once before. They were told they should get it just in case, but were told by hospital officials there was a shortage of the vaccine and they could not vaccinate people who might have been in contact with rabies, she said.

After the rabies test on the raccoon was confirmed, they were able to be vaccinated, Skomski said.

"Meantime, I have a puppy I'm hoping is not going to die of rabies," Skomski said.

In four days, she said if the puppy, a boxer shepherd mix, has not displayed any odd behavior, she might be OK. The dog was vaccinated for rabies after being bitten, and Skomski said there is a slight chance she will not contract the disease.

"And she will have to be put to sleep at the first sign of it," Skomski said.

Skomski said she has been telling all of her neighbors, especially those with children and animals, to watch our for raccoons and other wild animals that might be in the neighborhood.

"A man (in the development) said he found a live raccoon in his yard in March and shot and killed it," Skomski said. "That raccoon tested positive for rabies."

A nearby resident said he found a dead raccoon on his property that also tested positive for rabies, she said.

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