Thursday, August 15, 2002

Rabies watch on in Cape

Published in the Current

As 11 Cape residents, children and adults, continue treatment for possible exposure to rabies during a fox attack on a little girl at a Cape day-care center, residents and authorities remain cautious about further incidents.

The girl, a 2-1/2 year old, missed one day before returning to the Funny Farm Daycare on Old Ocean House Road, according to Lisa Rockwell, an owner of the business. The other children and adults are back at the day-care center as well, she said.

Cape police say they are watchful for rabid animals in town, but caution residents not to panic.

Capt. Brent Sinclair said last week’s incident is unusual. He said residents who see a nocturnal animal during daylight hours should go inside and call
the police, but said that outdoor recreation and relaxation are still safe.

Sinclair added that police will kill any wild animal that they suspect of being rabid, preferring to be on the safe side rather than wait for the animal to be
involved in an encounter with humans or pets.

The police station also has available rabies information fliers from the state Division of Disease Control. Police have gotten inquiries from members of the public concerned about rabies and rabid animals in town.

At a Town Council meeting Monday, council Chairman Jack Roberts said people should not be afraid to go outside, but suggested they consider carrying a stick with which to defend themselves should they encounter a rabid animal.

Geoff Beckett, an assistant state epidemiologist with the Maine Bureau of Health, said even with a recent rabid animal attack, such an incident is unlikely to recur. “It is unusual for people to be attacked by wild animals,” he said.

Beckett also said there have been no cases of humans contracting rabies after contact with raccoons, foxes, skunks or other land animals in the past 20 years. That is because people know they have been bitten, he said, and seek treatment.

There are, he said, fewer than three cases a year in which humans have unknowingly been infected with rabies, “virtually all” through contact with bats.

Beckett said that discussion of the strains of rabies virus, notably the distinctions between “fox rabies” and “raccoon rabies,” should be left to epidemiologists, as the effects on humans of either variety of the rabies virus is “exactly the same.”

The fox attack was not the first encounter between humans and rabid animals in Cape this year, though it was certainly the scariest.

On July 10, a rabid gray fox approached humans and dogs on a deck outside a residence near Two Lights State Park.

One dog and a human forced the fox off the deck and it retreated into nearby woods, where it was located and destroyed.

On July 17, two police officers shot a rabid raccoon several times as it showed aggression toward the,.

Animal Control Officer Bob Leeman warned residents to keep a close eye on their pets when outdoors and to take care even when walking pets on a leash. The aggressive nature of the rabid animals so far this year is a concern, he said, and people need to pay attention.