Rabid raccoon bites little boy in Starksboro

STARKSBORO — Public Health authorities are urging people to be aware that rabid animals have been confirmed in Addison County, and to take precautions when they see an animal that may have rabies.
This comes after a four-and-a-half-year-old boy in Starksboro was treated for rabies after being bitten by a raccoon on his back porch.
Heather Barnard said her son, Brody, saw a raccoon climb onto the porch in broad daylight at around 12:30 p.m. on May 16. The raccoon latched onto the youngster’s leg with its mouth and didn’t let go until Barnard beat on it with the thing closest at hand — a stroller. The raccoon ran off into the woods behind the Barnards’ South Starksboro home and was not caught, so a clinical diagnosis of rabies could not be made.
But a doctor at Porter Hospital told Barnard that the animal was clearly infected with rabies, and he put the boy on a rabies treatment, which included inoculations around the thoroughly cleaned bite that day and a series of four shots over four weeks.
The Vermont Department of Health has recorded 20 confirmed cases of rabies in Vermont through May 16, compared to 29 in all of 2011. Staff from the Vermont Rabies Hotline told Barnard that the mild winter may have something to do with the increased incidence of the disease.
The Department of Health confirmed a bat with rabies in Middlebury on April 7 and a rabid raccoon in Lincoln on March 7. The Starksboro health officer told Barnard that there have been many reports of rabid animals in neighboring Lincoln and Huntington this year.
State officials said people should:
•  Refrain from feeding or touching wild animals, or animals they don’t know — even baby animals.
•  Get rabies shots for pets, including cats.
•  Call your doctor right away if you are bitten, or get animal saliva in a cut, eyes, nose or mouth.
Barnard said her son would recover, and she reminded other parents to teach their children to be wary when animals are acting strangely.
“It was extremely frightening,” she said of the raccoon attack.
The Vermont Rabies Hotlines is 1-800-4-RABIES (1-800-472-2437).

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