County Health Agency Issues Reminders About Rabies; Rabid Raccoon Recently Killed In Berlin

BERLIN – A rabid raccoon in downtown Berlin served as proof of what health officials have been saying all along — the deadly disease can show up anywhere.

“We never know where the next call’s going to come from,” said Janet Tull, rabies coordinator for the Worcester County Health Department.

Tull said the county documented its sixth confirmed case of rabies this year when a raccoon carrying the disease was picked up off Main Street. According to Tull, the health department was contacted by a resident whose dog killed the rabid raccoon.

The dog’s rabies vaccination was up-to-date, but by law the animal was still required to receive a booster shot and had to remain in quarantine at the owner’s home for 45 days.

“The more devastating impact we see all too frequently is when they’re not vaccinated,” Tull said.

If a pet that’s not vaccinated comes into contact with a rabid animal, the pet is euthanized or placed in strict isolation for six months.

“These are national guidelines,” Tull said.

She explained that what many people don’t realize about the rabies vaccine is that while a pet’s initial vaccine lasts for one year and its subsequent vaccines last for three years, the animal does not have level protection during that time period.

“That protection is not going to be level across the year and then just fall off,” she said. “The rationale is that you’re boosting that animal’s immune response.”

Tull reminds county residents that cats and dogs must, by law, be vaccinated against rabies. Though veterinarians can vaccinate animals any time of year, Worcester County hosts rabies clinics in the spring and fall as well. More than 300 pets were vaccinated at this spring’s clinics in Bishopville and Snow Hill.

While rabies is a devastating disease Tull says there are several things people can do to help prevent it. Aside from the obvious choice of vaccinating pets, area residents can refrain from feeding pets outdoors.

“That draws wildlife,” Tull said. “Particularly cat food.”

People should also secure their garbage cans — to keep wild animals from scavenging in them — and should remove strays from the community. If Worcester County residents see an animal behaving erratically that they believe could have rabies, they should contact the Worcester County Health Department. After business hours, residents should contact their local law enforcement agency. Tull says the biggest misconception she’s aware of when it comes to rabies is the idea that affected animals will be foaming at the mouth. That, she says, doesn’t happen.

“In wildlife, it’s the behavior of the animal you need to look for,” she said. “The no fear, the staggering, being oblivious to traffic.”

Not all rabid animals will behave the same way though.

“There’s no hard and fast way an animal’s going to present if it’s rabid,” she said.

Tull warns that even if there are years when Worcester County sees a fairly small number of rabies cases, the disease is always present.

For more information, go to

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.