Maine CDC Press Release

February 3, 2012

Warmer Weather May Be Cause of Increase in Rabid Animals

Don Hoenig, DVM, Department of Agriculture (207) 287-7615
Or Stephen Sears, State Epidemiologist, (207) 287-5183

AUGUSTA – With the addition of two foxes in the same York County neighborhood testing positive for rabies, the increased number of rabies cases in the first month of 2012 has prompted the Maine Center for Disease Control and the Maine Department of Agriculture to remind people to be cautious around wild animals and to vaccinate their pets.

In January 2012, 11 cases of rabies have been confirmed, while in 2011, only one animal tested positive for the virus. Rabid animals have been reported in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford and York counties.

“The uncharacteristically warm winter weather that we’ve been experiencing and the lack of significant snowfall may be contributing to the increase by enabling wild animals to roam more freely,” said Dr. Don Hoenig, State Veterinarian with the Maine Department of Agriculture.

The rabies virus is spread when infected animals bite or scratch a person or another animal. The virus can also be spread if saliva or tissue from the brain or spinal cord touches broken skin or gets into the mouth, nose or eyes, Hoenig said.

The most common wild animals to carry rabies are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes. Domestic mammals can also get rabies.

Dr. Stephen Sears, State Epidemiologist from Maine CDC, reminds Mainers to avoid contact with wild animals, to keep their pets close to home and to make sure all pets are up to date on rabies vaccination.

“By avoiding contact with wild animals and maintaining pet’s vaccination, we can prevent the spread of rabies,” said Dr. Sears.

Rabies in humans is preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. It is important to report possible exposures right away to ensure appropriate follow up. For more information, please contact your local animal control officer or the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.