Rabies Case Reported by Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department – 1st Case for 2020

WHEELING, WV –Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is announcing that a raccoon has tested positive for rabies.  The raccoon was found in the downtown area of Wheeling near 12th Street and Main Street.

The raccoon was collected on January 15, 2020 and preliminary tested positive for rabies on January 17, 2020 and was confirmed on January 22, 2020.  This is the first laboratory confirmed animal rabies case in Ohio County for 2020.  In 2019 two positive rabies cases (raccoon and groundhog) were found in Ohio County.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department and other county health departments in West Virginia, along with the United States Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services regularly test animals for rabies throughout the year.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is warning residents of Ohio County to be wary of animals acting strangely or aggressively.  The health department also reminds residents to keep their pet’s vaccinations up to date.

Rabies is a virus capable of infecting warm-blooded animals. Rabies mainly affects the brain.  The disease is common in wildlife in North America- notably in bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes. There have not been any naturally occurring cases identified in birds and it is extremely rare in rodents. The disease is usually spread by the bite or scratch of an infected animal. The virus is transmitted through the saliva. Rabies is a virus that if left untreated can be fatal.

Most exposures occur because people don’t consider the risk of rabies. Exposures occur through contact with wildlife or with domestic animals exposed to rabid wildlife. Therefore, avoid raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats and stray or unfamiliar dogs and cats. In addition, wild species, including wild/domestic crossbreeds should not be kept as pets.

The health department urges residents not to ground feed any animals, both domestic and wild animals, especially in residential areas.  Residents should also control and secure residential garbage waste in and around homes and businesses.

For more information contact the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department at 304.234.3682.