Man bitten by rabid raccoon

Published 1:13 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Piedmont District urges caution after a hunter was attacked and bitten on the hand by a rabid raccoon at the Charlotte/Prince Edward county line on May 16.
According to VDH representative Ed Dunn, a hunter from Chesterfield was in a blind near the Charlotte and Prince Edward county line during the last week of spring gobbler season when he was attacked. The hunter fought back.

“The animal bit his hand, latched on and would not let go,” the release cited. “The hunter was able to maneuver his hand with the raccoon attached to a position where he could shoot the lower part of the raccoon with his shotgun from his other hand. The raccoon was tested and found positive for rabies. The hunter and a companion who was also exposed to fluids from the raccoon are completing rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.”

The incident was estimated to have occurred somewhere in the Abilene area, Dunn said, but the exact location has not been determined.

The Chesterfield Health Department tested the raccoon and determined it was positive for rabies.
According to the release, increased contact with wild and domestic animals is likely as more people spend time outdoors during the spring and summer.

“This also means we are at increased risk of exposure to rabies,” the release cited. “Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be transmitted from infected wildlife to domestic animals and people. Wild animals in Virginia at high risk of being rabid include bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks; however, any mammal can get rabies. The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. You can only get rabies by coming in contact with these specific bodily excretions and tissues.”

The release urged readers to remember that rabies left untreated is always fatal.

“If you are bitten, wash any wounds immediately and thoroughly with soap and water and see your doctor as soon as possible for treatment,” the release cited. “Your doctor, in consultation with the health department, will decide if you need rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. The decision will be based on your type of exposure and the animal you were exposed to, as well as laboratory and surveillance information for the geographic area where the exposure occurred.”

According to the release, post-exposure prophylaxis consists of a regimen of one dose of rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period in the United States.

The rabies immune globulin, and the first dose of rabies vaccine should be given by one’s doctor as soon as possible after the exposure. Additional doses of rabies vaccine are given on days three, seven and 14 after the first vaccination, according to the release. Current vaccines are relatively painless and given in one’s arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine.

One thing that all pet owners can do to help prevent rabies, according to the release, is by making sure that your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up-to-date.

“Vaccinating your pets against rabies establishes a barrier between wildlife and people; failure to do so weakens this barrier and increases the risk of exposure,” the release cited. “Vaccinating your pet means that you are protecting yourself, your family, neighbors, delivery persons and anyone else who comes in contact with your pet from the possibility of rabies.”

For any questions regarding rabies, readers are asked to contact Charlotte County’s local health department at (434) 542-5251 or visit the Virginia Department of Health website at