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Rabies Case Reported in Downtown Wheeling

WHEELING – Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department officials announced Wednesday that a raccoon has tested positive for rabies.

The raccoon was found in the downtown area of Wheeling near 12th and Main streets.

The raccoon was collected on Jan. 15. A preliminary test, performed on Jan. 17, was positive for rabies. The case of rabies was confirmed Wednesday.

This is the first laboratory confirmed animal rabies case in Ohio County for 2020, Administrator Howard Gamble said. In 2019, two positive rabies cases (raccoon and groundhog) were found in Ohio County.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department and other county health departments in West Virginia, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, test animals for rabies throughout the year.

Gamble warned residents to be wary of animals acting strangely or aggressively. He also reminded residents to keep their pet’s vaccinations up to date.

The health department urges residents not to ground feed any animals, both domestic and wild animals, especially in residential areas. Residents should control and secure residential garbage waste in and around homes and businesses.

Rabies is a virus capable of infecting warm-blooded animals. Rabies mainly affects the brain. The disease is common in wildlife in North America- notably in bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes. There have not been any naturally occurring cases identified in birds and it is extremely rare in rodents. The disease is usually spread by the bite or scratch of an infected animal. The virus is transmitted through the saliva. Rabies is a virus that, if left untreated, can be fatal.

Most exposures occur because people don’t consider the risk of rabies. Exposures occur through contact with wildlife or with domestic animals exposed to rabid wildlife. Therefore, avoid raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats and stray or unfamiliar dogs and cats. In addition, wild species, including wild/domestic crossbreeds should not be kept as pets. For more information, call the health department at 304-234-3682 or visit its website at www.ohiocountyhealth.com.

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