PLATTSBURGH — With the number of positive rabies cases on the rise in Clinton County, a clinic will be held at Peru Fire Station on Tuesday, June 25.
In 2012, the Clinton County Health Department confirmed seven total cases of rabid animals: one bat, two raccoons and four skunks.
All the positive cases were recorded after Aug. 20.
This year, five positive cases have already been confirmed, including a rabid gray fox in the Town of AuSable that attacked and bit a resident. The person had to get shots to protect against the deadly rabies virus.
“Gray foxes are generally secretive animals; you rarely ever see them,” said Rita Mitchell, principal sanitarian for the Clinton County Health Department. “But they are one animal that’s known to be very aggressive when they get rabies.”
Residents immediately called the State Department of Environmental Conservation, who sent an officer to the property and shot the animal. Within two days, the state lab in Albany confirmed the fox had rabies.
The fox, skunk and raccoons all tested positive for the raccoon strain of the rabies virus. Prevalent across the Northeast over the past two decades, the strain is among those that are carried by a particular species but can also spread to other animals.
For instance, a fox strain of the rabies virus impacted the region in the early 1990s and took a heavy toll on local fox populations, but other mammals also contracted it.
Raccoons have been the center of attention during this more recent activity.
“There’s a significant raccoon rabies outbreak pretty much throughout the state,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t surprising to see it make its way into Clinton County.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services has been conducting a field study over the past several years to find the best way to vaccinate raccoons and other animals by dropping vaccine-laced baits into the wild.