“That local veterinarian chose to test that animal due to its neurological symptoms it was experiencing,” said Chad Wetzel, Douglas County Epidemiologist.
And it tested positive for a raccoon variant of rabies rarely found anywhere west of the Appalachian Region.
“Rabies is nearly always fatal, so we are taking all of the proper steps to make sure it doesn’t spread or get established here in Douglas County,” said Dr. Lindsay Huse, Douglas County Health Director.
In Douglas County, rabies cases are most often found in bats. According to the Nebraska Humane Society, there are an estimated 40,000 raccoons within the county, and the spread of this variant is concerning.
“These raccoons may interact more frequently with domestic animals,” said Huse.
Officials are recommending vaccinating and supervising pets, especially in the target area, which is about a 3-mile radius from where the kitten was found.
That’s within the boundaries of F and Fort Streets from 72nd east to the Missouri River.
“As we learn more, this area could change or expand.”
This comprehensive plan is expected to take several weeks. With the help of the CDC and USDA, experts will test, trap, and vaccinate raccoons.
“I know that raccoon rabies has been a very costly and difficult issue for communities on the East Coast, and we certainly don’t want to have to handle that here,” said Huse.
She said the effort may even get bigger as time goes on.
Officials are also urging people to call the Nebraska Humane Society if they notice any animals acting unusual. That includes aggressive behavior, being overly fearful, or excessive drooling.
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Dr. Debi Johnson is a medical expert and health journalist dedicated to promoting well-being. With a background in medicine, she offers evidence-based insights into health trends and wellness practices. Beyond her reporting, Dr. Debi enjoys hiking, yoga, and empowering others to lead healthier lives.