The rabid raccoon is the first found in Mahoning County since 1999.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LOWELLVILLE -- A raccoon found on McGaffney Road last Thursday was rabid, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Residents saw the raccoon acting strangely, and Lowellville police shot the animal at 2:15 p.m. It was turned over to the Mahoning County Health Department and shipped to ODH in Columbus for testing.
Mahoning County Health Department officials were notified by telephone Tuesday afternoon that the raccoon was rabid, said Rick Setty, environmental health director.
The animal is the first rabid raccoon detected in Mahoning County since 1999, Setty said.
Still a health risk: "Despite all the recent attention given to anthrax, finding this rabid animal reminds us that rabies is an ongoing threat to public health in our area," said Matthew Stefanak, Mahoning County health commissioner.
Although yearly distribution of vaccine-laden baits throughout northeastern Ohio has stopped the westward spread of rabies, the disease still persists at low levels in the local raccoon population, he said.
As a result of finding the rabid raccoon, the board of health will step up testing of raccoons in the area where it was found. Hundreds of raccoons killed on area roadways or by local police departments and nuisance trappers have been tested since 1997, Stefanak said.
Pet vaccinations: The board of health also plans to continue stepped-up enforcement of mandatory pet vaccination laws. Almost one-third of pet dogs and cats that bit humans in 2000 were not vaccinated against rabies, placing the pets, their families and bite victims at risk for rabies exposure, Stefanak said.
Setty said there was no observed or documented exposure of people or pets to the rabid raccoon in Lowellville. Health department sanitarians will request proof of current rabies vaccination for dogs and cats they observe during their complaint investigations. Pet owners who cannot prove that their animals are current with their vaccinations will receive a warning and information about where to obtain rabies shots. Pet owners who fail to comply with the mandatory vaccination law can face prosecution.
Sanitarians will now concentrate their shot record checks in Lowellville and the surrounding townships and municipalities, Stefanak said.
Also, Setty said, surrounding counties will be notified of the finding of the rabid raccoon.