WASHINGTON – Two high-profile cases of rabid animals attacking humans in Fairfax County have drawn attention recently to the issue of rabies.
Is it possible that Fairfax County could be seeing more confirmed cases of rabies this year, or is it a case of more attention devoted to the disease?
Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department, says the public is on high alert after several rabid beaver attacks in the county.
“We’ve had two incidents this year where beavers did turn on people,” Caldwell says. “We’re on par possibly for an increase, but so far we can’t say that.”
Glen Barbour is a public safety information officer with the Fairfax County Health Department. He says the public attention surrounding these attacks is a good thing, because it provides an opportunity to teach awareness about this fatal disease.
Barbour says the department examines trends in rabies cases. In their lab, they test between 400 and 600 animals each year. About 50 usually test positive for rabies.
If the overall number of animals that are tested falls in that range, it is not cause for alarm, says Barbour. He adds that the amount of rabies last year and this year is about the same.
The Fairfax County Health Department only tests animals that have made contact with either domestic pets or people. Barbour says rabies is endemic to our area, is here to stay and occurs naturally.
He stresses that if a person has been bitten by an animal, he or she should report the bite and the animal right away. If rabies is left untreated, it can be fatal.