The Transylvania Times -

By Robbie Robertson
Sports Editor" 

Rabid Raccoon Attacks Woman


May 29, 2009

A rabid raccoon attacked a local woman last week in Little River, requiring her to undergo rabies treatment for the next month, according to local authorities.

Diane Lepley-Baker, of Little River Ranch, was outside last Thursday when the animal charged out from under some bushes and attached itself to her leg.

Baker said she happened to have a basket in her hand and was able to hit the animal and drive him away. A neighbor later shot the animal, and it was collected by Transylvania County Animal Services and sent to the state lab for tests.

The rabies tests came back positive, requiring Baker to undergo a month-long series of shots. She was not bitten in the attack but received a scratch on one of her fingers. Any saliva from the raccoon that entered her bloodstream may have carried the disease.

Baker wants to make sure people are aware of the possible danger.

Chuck Byrd, director of Animal Services, said people should be on the lookout for any unusual behavior in a wild animal: nocturnal animals seen during the day, or animals that have lost their fear of humans.

"You just want to look for anything not normal for that animal," Byrd said.

Rabies behavior varies from animal to animal and case to case.

"You've got the Cujo-kind of rabies and dumb rabies," Byrd said.

"You've got the kind of animals that attack, and others who just won't move away from you."

Actual cases are relatively rare in the county, Byrd said, although his office receives many calls on suspected cases.

Animal Services is the only county agency authorized to package and ship suspect animals to the state lab, Byrd added. Anyone who destroys an animal on their own should take care to preserve the head intact, since tests are carried out on the brain.

Any warm-blooded mammal may contract the disease, but some are more susceptible than others.

"Raccoons are one of the largest vectors of the disease," Byrd said.

Foxes and bats are the other two largest carriers, although a possum tested positive in North Carolina two years ago.

Byrd's advice: "Don't play with wildlife."

Pets should also have current vaccinations for rabies.


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