The recent extremely hot weather has helped keep down the number of confirmed rabies cases in the Gloucester area, said M.B. Sheppard, environmental health supervisor for the Gloucester Health Department.
Sheppard said June 28 that usually by late June more confirmed rabies cases are recorded here. He suggested that the hot weather has limited interaction between people and pets and rabid animals.
"Rabies is still here," Sheppard said, although it might not be as noticeable in some years as it "can be cyclical."
The lone confirmed case of rabies in Gloucester this year occurred April 7, involving an altercation between four dogs and a raccoon on the Blue Heron Lane area of the lower county. The property owner shot the raccoon.
Sheppard said it is important for owners to have their pets vaccinated to protect them against rabies. The initial rabies inoculation is good for one year, he said, with a booster good for three years.
Owners should try to limit the time their pets stay outdoors without supervision, when they might tangle with wildlife that has rabies. Also, Sheppard said property owners should securely cover their trash cans to keep animals from foraging and to empty their pet food bowls outside regularly so as not to attract outside animals to the property.
Besides the one positive rabies case in Gloucester this year, Sheppard said there have been several incidents where people received post-exposure shots after they were nipped by wild animals that might have carried rabies. In those cases, the animal ran off and could not be found to be tested for rabies.
Throughout the Three Rivers Health District, Sheppard said, there have been a total of 12 positive rabies cases from Jan. 1-June 28, 2010. These included: Gloucester, one raccoon; Mathews, one skunk; Middlesex, two raccoons; Lancaster, one cat and one groundhog; Northumberland, one skunk; Richmond County, one red fox and one raccoon; Westmoreland, three raccoons.
For more information about rabies, call the Gloucester Health Department at 693-6130.