CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Rabies is on the rise.
ABC27 learned there were several Midstate cases in March, but the state Department of Agriculture hadn’t released any information.
A few hours after contacting the department, they sent out a news release confirming nine cases in the span of about two weeks.
Now, they’re now urging caution.
A feral cat in Carlisle and a gray fox in Newville both tested positive for rabies on March 21 and both bit people, according to a Facebook post from Compassion Animal Hospital in Adams County.
ABC27 contacted the Agriculture Department about it, and a couple hours later they told us both of those Cumberland County cases did, in fact, involve human exposure, as did a raccoon tested in Lancaster County in mid-March.
“From a public health standpoint, you have to be concerned,” said Lynn Hoffman, a doctor living in Carlisle.
We ran into Hoffman out for a walk with his grandson, Aiden, on Friday evening. He said these cases are certainly worrisome.
“An unprovoked bite,” he said, “this really needs to put people on precaution.”
The Agriculture Department agrees.
From March 18-30, a total of nine animals tested positive for rabies in Lancaster, York, Cumberland, Lebanon and Adams counties. Six of them had no contact with people.
“It’s the time of year where animals are out more, where people are out more,” department spokesman Will Nichols said.
Rabies exists all year round, he said, but, simply put, there are more opportunities to interact with rabid animals as the weather warms up.
Over the last couple years, the state has seen an increase in confirmed cases. Nichols said the department isn’t sure why, but in some places, increased awareness leads to increased reporting.
“Keep your eye out for wildlife that may be exhibiting unusual signs, unusual symptoms,” Nichols cautioned.
Those signs can include foaming at the mouth, aggressive behavior, lethargy, and unusual behavior like nocturnal animals being active during the day.
“Rabies is obviously a serious disease and so it’s nothing to be taken lightly,” Hoffman said.
To test an animal for rabies, a lab needs the animal’s brain. So, if you do get bitten and suspect rabies, contact authorities to catch the animal so it can be tested.
Otherwise, Hoffman said, it’s a judgment call about whether to start treatment (the early administration of the vaccine) presumptively. In the case of rabies, he said, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
And because the state only keeps track by county, it’s hard to know exactly where these cases are popping up.
Vets say one of the most important things you can do is just make sure that your pets’ rabies vaccines are current (as required by law for all dogs and non-feral cats over three months old).
If you’re not sure whether or not they’re up to date, contact your vet.