Gamble: 204 Animal Bites, Scratches Since ’12, Including Komodo Dragon

A komodo dragon is among the animals that Ohio County residents have had encounters with since 2012, according to the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.

Emergency rooms, physician offices and urgent care facilities by law must report animal bites and scratches – classified as animal encounters – to the health department. Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, said 204 such encounters occurred with 159 of them happening within the city of Wheeling limits.

In the case of the komodo dragon, a worker at the Good Zoo at Oglebay Park was either bitten or scratched by the animal on display there, Gamble said.

Good Zoo Director Penny Miller said Wednesday that while the worker did receive a small scratch from the komodo dragon’s tooth, reptiles do not carry rabies. Thus, the komodo dragon’s brain did not have to be tested and it is alive and well at the zoo. The worker was treated with antibiotics.

Of the other animals tested 26 were bats; 28 were cats; 24 were dogs; two were deer; 15 were raccoons; and two were rats. There also was one each of a goat, squirrel, mole and mouse.

“If people would maintain their pets’ vaccinations, we wouldn’t have near as many issues with animal testing. … Rabies is the issue for us,” Gamble said.

By compiling the data some patterns were revealed. For example, several of the animals that had repeatedly bitten or scratched people were owned by the person. In in several other cases, the same person had multiple animal encounters.

“Thirty four of the encounters resulted in post exposure rabies vaccinations of an individual,” he said.

Across the state in 2013, 426 surveillance animals, which include raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes, were tested for rabies with 73 of those animals testing positive for the disease. In Ohio County alone, 48 animals were tested with two tested positive. Other local counties’ statistics include: Hancock: 23 tested, one positive; Brooke: 12 tested, one positive; Marshall: eight tested, one positive; Wetzel: five tested, zero positive; and Tyler: one tested, zero positive.