Maine CDC Press Release

March 12, 2007

Animal Rabies Reported in Aroostook County

Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH
Tel: (207)-287-3270
John Martins, Director
Employee and Public Communications
Tel: (207) 287-5012

AUGUSTA - The recent confirmation of a rabid skunk in Aroostook County has prompted the State’s Health Officer to remind pet owners of the need to immunize their animals against the deadly virus.

On February 22, the rabid skunk was killed by a Sherman resident after the skunk attacked his dog. The dog owner took the skunk to his veterinarian, who prepared the animal for rabies testing at the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. The skunk tested positive for rabies on February 27. As a result of its contact with the skunk and to prevent spread of the rabies virus, the dog received a rabies vaccine booster and was quarantined for 45 days.

“This is the first documented case of animal rabies in Aroostook County since 1999, when a bat from Caribou was identified as rabid,” said Dr. Dora Ann Mills, State Health Officer and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pet owners should make sure their animals are up to date on their rabies vaccination. Immunization not only protects pets, but also acts as a barrier that protects humans against the disease.”

In 2006, a total of 127 animals were identified as rabid in Maine. Although bats (12 percent), raccoons (47 percent) and skunks (34 percent) accounted for the majority of rabid animals identified in 2006, six domestic cats were also found to be rabid. “By avoiding contact with wild animals and maintaining pet’s vaccination, we can prevent the spread of rabies,” said Dr. Mills. “Maine law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated because they are hunters by nature and often have contact with animals at high risk for rabies.”

“Livestock owners should also consult with their practicing veterinarians about vaccinating their animals for rabies. Currently there are USDA-approved rabies vaccines available for cattle, horses and sheep,” added Dr. Don Hoenig, State Veterinarian with the Maine Department of Agriculture.

No human cases of rabies have been reported in Maine since 1934, when a man became infected after being attacked by a rabid dog.