A black bear recently found in Fairfield, NC on December 17, 2018 tested positive for rabies. A necropsy performed at the University of Georgia’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study confirmed the cause of death. Since 1999, only four black bears have tested positive for rabies in the continental United States. This is the first known case of a black bear having rabies in North Carolina.

Fairfield, NC is located in Hyde County. Though sparsely populated, Hyde County has one of the largest black bear populations in the nation. A popular tourist destination due to its location near the Outer Banks, Hyde County is also a popular spot among hunters because of its wildlife. Black bears are frequently spotted in eastern North Carolina around homes and near pets.

Rabies is a fatal disease. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of balance and discharge from the eyes and nose. As it advances, rabies can cause excessive salivation, vomiting, self-mutilation and no fear of humans. Rabies can be transmitted to humans through contact with saliva, tears or coming into contact with the brain or nervous tissue of an infected animal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of rabies cases involve raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Any pet bitten or scratched by a wild, carnivorous mammal or bat not available for testing is considered to be exposed to rabies. Dogs and cats not vaccinated against rabies are generally euthanized immediately. If the pet owner refuses, the pet should be strictly quarantined for four months.

Rabies is a virus that infects the central nervous system causing disease in the brain and ultimately death usually within days of onset of symptoms. Rabies is preventable. Keep pets safe from rabies by making sure their rabies vaccinations are up to date. Keep cats safely indoors and be sure dogs are under direct supervision when outdoors. Limit your pets exposure to wild animals. If a stray animal is spotted in your neighborhood, contact animal control to have it removed as it could be unvaccinated or sick.

For more information on rabies in Tennessee, click here.