Two cases of raccoon rabies discovered in southern Stark Co.

The Stark County Health Department has confirmed the discovery of two raccoons with rabies in Paris Twp. Paris Township encompasses New Franklin, Robertsville and parts of Minerva, along with rural areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a raccoon tested positive for raccoon rabies variant (RRV) March 14. A second raccoon tested positive in late April.

Health Dept. officials said the county has a few cases of rabies in bats, but these are the first cases of raccoon rabies variant reported in the county to date.

Health Commissioner Kirk Norris said the cases signify an immediate potential threat of raccoon rabies spread into new areas of eastern and central Ohio.

RRV is a strain of rabies found in the eastern United States that has periodically spread into eastern Ohio. If established, this strain of rabies could lead to dramatic increases in rabies exposure to people and pets.

To protect Ohioans and their domestic animals, the Ohio Department of Health, local health departments and other agencies partnered with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) and Wildlife Services (WS) to immunize wild raccoons for rabies using oral rabies vaccine.

This effort began in 1997 and created a barrier of immune animals that reduced animal cases and prevented the spread of the disease into the rest of Ohio. The rabid raccoons collected in Paris Twp., about five miles west of the oral rabies vaccine zone, represent the first cases since 2004 when a case was discovered in Lake County.

The Stark County Health Department is working with USDA, APHIS and WS to perform enhanced surveillance sample collection near the areas where the rabid raccoon was found.

Since raccoons have a greater potential of interaction with domestic animals and pets, the Stark County Health Department is asking residents to follow these steps to protect families and pets:

*Do not feed wild animals or leave food outside for animals to find;

*Avoid contact with wild animals; keep children away from any unknown animals;

*Keep pets vaccinated against rabies.

A rabies vaccination clinic for dogs, cats and ferrets is scheduled May 26 from 1-3 p.m. at the Stark County Fairgrounds in the Wildlife Building on the south side. Cost is $10 per pet; cash only.

For additional information, call the Stark County Health Dept. at 330-493-9904 or the ODH Zoonotic Disease Program at 614-752-1029.



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