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More erratic than hostile:  Rabid skunk presents threat

South Boston News
The rabid skunk found last week in South Boston lashed out at any cats that tried to get between the critter and its pillow.
SoVaNow.com / July 29, 2021


A rabid skunk that was found last week at a residence off Oakes Avenue in South Boston was acting aggressively toward domestic and feral cats, but did not pose a direct threat to people in the neighborhood.

In fact, the strangest behavior by the infected skunk was its attachment to a pillow left in a yard.

“The skunk was not really aggressive to people, just the cats that were trying to get to its pillow,” said Animal Control Officer Laura Midkiff, who responded to the call.

The discovery of the rabid animal prompted the Southside Health District to issue a notice warning nearby residents of the threat. In a Monday statement, SSHD noted the serious nature of the situation, because other animals could be infected with the disease.

The skunk was captured July 21 and tested positive for rabies.

Midkiff said the skunk was quite easy to trap. Not all animals that have rabies are always aggressive towards people. Midkiff referenced the movie, “Cujo” where a family dog foams at the mouth after contracting rabies, and explained “that is not usually the case.

“Most of the time the animal is just acting out of the ordinary — this is very serious and should not be taken lightly,” said Midkiff.

The Southside Health District asks anyone who may have come into contact with a skunk or feral cat in or around the area of Oakes Avenue or near the South Boston Collection and Recycling Center on Hamilton Boulevard to call the health department at 434-476-4863.

“There were lots of wild cats running around,” said Midkiff.

The Southside Health District is reminding the public to avoid contact with bats, feral cats, stray dogs and wild animals, particularly in the area where the skunk was found. If you observe any stray animals in the area, contact the Halifax Animal Control for assistance at 434-572-4292. The public should not try to trap or handle the stray and wild animals.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Rabies can be prevented in cats, dogs, ferrets and some livestock with a rabies vaccination. Rabies kills almost any mammal or human that gets sick from the disease. The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain tissue of rabid animals. Rabies can be transmitted through a bite from the infected animal. Also, rabies can be contracted by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound, the eye, or mouth.

The Virginia Department of Health and the Southside Health District provides the following guidelines to stop the spread of rabies. To protect pets and their owners from rabies, Virginia law requires that all dogs and cats four months of age and older be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian, and that vaccinations be kept current.

Additional steps to protect against rabies exposure: Do not feed stray animals. Avoid wild animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks. Feed your pets indoors and do not let them wander. Teach children to avoid contact with wild animals and pets they are not familiar with. Do not handle sick, injured or dead animals. Keep wild animals out of homes by capping chimneys with screens and blocking openings in attics, cellars and porches. Ensure trash cans have tight fitting lids.

If you are bitten by a wild or stray animal, do not panic. Wash the wound thoroughly with warm soapy water and contact animal control, your doctor, or the Southside Health District for further recommendations.

For additional information, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/animal-contact-human-health/or call the Southside Health District at (434) 476-4863.

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