UPDATE – THIRD CASE IDENTIFIED: Greenbrier County officials say two rabies-positive raccoons is ‘not shocking’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

UPDATE: 7/14 – 6:00 p.m.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, the Greenbrier County Health Department announced that a bat found in the area of Rainelle has tested positive for rabies, bringing the total number of positive cases within the county to three.

LEWISBURG, W.Va. – The Greenbrier County Health Department, on Wednesday, confirmed the identification of rabies virus in a raccoon found in the Lewisburg-area. The announcement came just one day after a similar identification was made in a raccoon discovered on the western-end of the county – the first animal being located in the Crawley-Clintonville-Sam Black-area. 

“We haven’t had any (rabies confirmations) in nine or 10 years, so it’s been quite a while since we’ve had a positive case,” Greenbrier County Health Officer Bridgett Morrison said, while speaking with RealWV on Thursday. “It’s not shocking that we have two cases, it just slightly raises the level of concern.”

According to Morrison, residents of Greenbrier County need not take any steps beyond the usual, common sense measures one should always practice while enjoying the outdoors. Avoiding wildlife is the best option. However, in the event that contact is unavoidable, wash any bite-area or other exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water.

“It’s basic common sense – stay away from wild animals,” Morrison said. “Currently, raccoons and bats are the two species most likely to carry rabies. In the event that you are exposed to them, call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room.”

“This is common sense whether we have rabies cases or not,” Morrison added. “Avoid these animals. You shouldn’t be trying to pet a raccoon or tame a bat to begin with. 

With regard to pets and livestock, Morrison says that vaccinations are the best way to ensure their safety. 

“Some people get lax on any vaccines, whether it’s human or animal,” Morrison noted. “So this is where we need to make sure that the public is having their animals vaccinated., or that they revisit their vaccines to make sure that they’re up to date.”

“If you’re at a high risk – if you work at a veterinary office, for instance – consider getting the vaccine yourself,” Morrison added.

Every August, West Virginia’s Department of Agriculture, and Division of Natural Resources, performs a “bait drop” throughout Greenbrier County. During this process, pellets containing the rabies vaccine are distributed in areas where raccoons are most likely to ingest them. The pellets are not harmful if eaten by dogs or cats. However, in the event that a human ingests a bait pellet, contact Infectious Disease Epidemiology, at 1-800-423-1271 ext. 1. 

“Essentially this is business as usual, it’s just reiterating the basics that we try to practice anyway,” Morrison said. “Currently we’re not doing anything additional, but obviously we’re constantly surveying. Every year there are animals sent off for rabies testing, and we’ll continue to do that surveillance.”

RealWV will provide updates regarding rabies confirmations in the event that any further cases are identified. 

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