Residents of Peoria, Illinois, create stink over SKUNK invasion; Texas BAT colonies so great radar sees weather patterns; Florida child bitten by RABID RACCON; Texas child bitten by FOX thought to be RABID; WEST NILE VIRUS reports from CA, CT, MO, & WI; and RABIES reports from CT, NE, NY, & NC. Canada: RABIES report from Ontario. Follow-Up Reports: Brother of North Carolina girl who died last week had LACROSSE ENCEPHALITIS.

Photo courtesy CDC.

Illinois 09/06/11 pjstar.com: by John Sharp – There are certain foul stenches easily more identifiable than others – oil refineries, corn processing plants, semi exhaust and skunks. The latter is a stink that Peorians, like everyone else in Illinois, are having to pinch their noses to avoid more often now than in previous years. The skunk population is on the rise. “Skunks have been moving around,” Jeff Stepping, manager of Critter Control in Peoria, said. “This year has been a little above average.” State statistics prove this. According to an annual skunk road kill index – an actual measure of the deceased skunk population by biologists throughout the state – the population was up 46 percent from February 2009 to January 2010. That represents the highest leap in skunk road kill in Illinois since February 1982 to January 1983, according to Bob Bluett, a wildlife biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The statistics are further supported by some real world problems.

In Joliet, residents showed up to a recent City Council meeting saying the number of skunks had reached “epidemic proportions,” according to newspaper accounts. Council members agreed, with one councilman saying his dog had been sprayed. Locally, wildlife trappers have been active with clearing roads of all sorts of road kill this year, primarily due to critters running around looking for food sources after a wetter-than-normal spring. “I have had an increase in skunks,” said Gary Isbell, with Nuisance Wildlife Removal of Trivoli. “It’s nothing epic.”  No skunk complaints have been publicly aired during a Peoria City Council meeting, but Lauren Malmberg with the Peoria County Animal Control Protection Services said the local populations are on the rise. “We are seeing a lot more skunks in the past three years than we have in the 27 years I’ve been here before that,” Malmberg, director of PCAPS, said. Part of the reason for the statewide skunk rise is because the last rabies outbreak controlling their population hit more than 20 years ago, Bluett said. “They stayed at a low (population) level since that last rabies epidemic,” he said. “Typically, you’ll see populations recover in 10 years or so. It’s been closer to 20 years.” Bluett said the Illinois Department of Public Health is moniorting skunks for rabies. He said a skunk rabie outbreak is typically not a concern for humans, but could be an issue for dogs, cats and livestock, which encounter skunks more often. “With the increase in population, there is a bigger chance you would see an increase in rabies,” he said. (For additional skunk facts and tips go to http://www.pjstar.com/features/x227167271/State-statistics-indicate-a-rise-in-the-skunk-population )

Texas 09/07/11 haysfreepress.com: by Wes Ferguson – The bats in Central Texas fly in (colonies) so great, they appear as weather patterns on Doppler radar. The other evening, Rob White, an avocational meteorologist and local insurance agent, decided to use radar to track the famed bats of Austin. He watched his screen as the bats left their haunt beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, but then he began to see other cloudlike patterns a little farther south. To White’s surprise, these bats were in Kyle. They were flying out from under a bridge a mere half mile from his house. “There’s got to be some insect population they’re feeding off of,” White later speculated. “Bats are having a hard time. Because of the drought, the insect population is lower, so I guess they’re doing whatever they have to to find food.”

A few days after White saw the bats on radar, Kyle resident Lynette Hill had a much closer encounter with them. She was driving south on the Interstate 35 frontage road when she saw thousands upon thousands of the tiny mammals fluttering into the evening sky. Though the bridge is easy to miss when driving over it, a dry creek bed called Bunton Branch runs beneath the frontage roads and Interstate 35 about a third of a mile north of the intersection with FM 1626. The heavy stench of urine below the bridges tells the story of the bats who have colonized it. There, the creek bed and concrete abutments are practically marshy with guano. (Bats carry rabies, so give them a wide berth and don’t touch them.) At 7:40 p.m. last Thursday, masses of the bats began to file out from under the interstate. As cars and trucks whirred by, the bats seemed to swarm all around and above the vehicles, trailing off to the east. They practically filled the sky. A few minutes later, though, the bats were all gone.

To see the spectacle of the Kyle bats for yourself, try a vantage point near the Lowe’s store in Kyle. Last Thursday the bats seemed to be flying directly over the big box parking lot. They left at 7:40 p.m. that night. But more recent reports suggest they’re flying closer to dark and heading in the opposite direction – west past H-E-B – so you might be able to see them if you wait near the historic Bunton Branch Bridge on Kyle Crossing, just west of I-35.

Florida 09/07/11 palmbeachpost.com: by Julius Whigham II – The Palm Beach County Health Department has issued a rabies warning after a raccoon that bit an 8-year-old Boca Raton boy Sunday tested positive for the deadly disease. The child and his mother were in their yard near Sandalfoot Boulevard and U.S. 441 on Sunday when a raccoon approached the family dog, Health Department spokesman Tim O’Connor said. The child intervened and the raccoon turned on the boy and bit him. The boy’s mother and a neighbor killed the raccoon and rushed the boy to a hospital to begin treatment for rabies. He was given a shot of rabies vaccine as a precaution. The Florida State Laboratory in Jacksonville confirmed today that the raccoon was rabid. As a result, the boy will receive three additional rabies vaccine shots over the next 14 days. Animals showing signs either of sickness or aggressive behavior should be reported to Animal Care and Control at (561) 233-1200.

Texas 09/07/11 reporternews.com: by Lisa Tipton – An 8-year-old boy received rabies vaccinations after he was attacked by a fox Sunday afternoon while playing in his grandparents’ front yard near Lake Brownwood. According to the Brown County Sheriff’s office, the grandfather, Andrew Horton, heard the child yell after a small fox bit the boy’s sock. Horton told a deputy he “grabbed the boy and slung him around to throw the fox off of him.” Horton shot at the fox several times, eventually killing it with a shot to the head. The fox never tried to run, the report said, but continued to charge Horton and his grandson. The boy didn’t suffer a full bite, but he had scratches that were checked out in a hospital emergency room. The fox’s body was sent to Austin to be tested for rabies; results are expected back this week. The animal’s aggressive nature indicated rabies, Brown County Game Warden Matthew Marek said. The boy has received rabies vaccinations and will need several more doses if the test results are positive.

California 09/08/11 the riverbanknews.com: by Andrea Goodwin – West Side Mosquito abatement district is warning northern Stanislaus County residents to be aware of the risks of West Nile Virus. There have been five reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans in Stanislaus County this summer and four of those cases required hospitalization. There have been no reported human cases of West Nile in the Riverbank or Oakdale areas, but officials are still warning residents that the virus is considered active in those areas. “There is West Nile Virus in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties. Everybody has the same chance of catching it. Just because nobody has reported it in Riverbank or Oakdale doesn’t mean people are safer,” said Lloyd Douglass, director of East Side Mosquito Abatement district. For more information about West Nile Virus, Stanislaus County residents can visit http://www.schsa.org.

Connecticut 09/08/11 ct.gov: New Release – The State Mosquito Management Program today announced that two more people have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) infection; one from Bridgeport, and another from New Haven. The residents, between 80-89 years of age, had onset of illness during the 4th week of August before the arrival of the tropical storm. Both residents were hospitalized with encephalitis. Illness in both cases was characterized by high fever, confusion, weakness, and vomiting. WNV positive mosquitoes have been trapped repeatedly at numerous sites in Fairfield and New Haven counties this season. Last week, it was announced that a resident of Stamford had tested positive for WNV infection. So far this season, WNV-positive mosquitoes have been trapped in 30 municipalities: Branford, Bridgeport, Cromwell, Danbury, Darien, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, Hamden, Hartford, Litchfield, Meriden, Milford, New Britain, New Canaan, New Haven, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, South Windsor, Stamford, Stratford, Tolland, Trumbull, West Haven, Westbrook, Westport, and Woodbridge. For information on West Nile virus and what you can do to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes, visit the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program web site at www.ct.gov/mosquito.

Missouri 09/08/11 cbslocal.com: A 12-year-old Wellston boy is the first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in St. Louis County this year. The county health department says the boy was hospitalized briefly but has recovered. The county reported one case of the mosquito-borne illness in 2010.

Wisconsin 09/08/11 wausaudailyherald.com: by Jeff Engel Gannett – Wisconsin health officials are again calling for horse owners to vaccinate their animals after the Clark County Health Department this week discovered the state’s first case of West Nile virus in a horse this year. The report comes after a recent string of cases of another mosquito-borne virus, eastern equine encephalitis, in horses in nearby counties. Two birds also have tested positive for West Nile in the state in 2011. There have been no confirmed human cases this year, after two statewide last year. The 10-year-old Clark County horse showed signs of neurological disease, and a sample was submitted for testing Aug. 30. The horse had not been vaccinated for West Nile virus, health officials said. (For complete article go to http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/article/20110908/WDH0101/110908046/Clark-County-reports-West-Nile-horse )

Connecticut 09/07/11 countytimes.com: by Kathryn Boughton – Rabies is present again in Western Connecticut, as the raccoon population, decimated by the disease a decade ago, increases. Two instances of rabid raccoons occurred last week in Kent. (For complete article go to http://www.countytimes.com/articles/2011/09/07/news/doc4e67c55715b08085328619.txt?viewmode=default )

Nebraska 09/07/11 columbustelegram.com: Columbus Animal Control has confirmed a case of rabies in a bat captured last week. According to a release from Lead Animal Control Officer Donna Winig, a Columbus citizen encountered the bat Thursday afternoon while working outside in the 3100 block of 39th Street. The bat was captured by Columbus Animal Control and sent to Kansas State University, where testing was positive for the rabies virus. For more information contact Columbus Animal Control at 402-564-8839.

New York 09/07/11 theloopny.com: by Diana Marszalek – A second rabid raccoon — the third rabid animal of the summer — has been found in Larchmont, according to county health officials. Residents on Wednesday received a call confirming that a raccoon trapped on Stuyvesant Avenue Sept. 2 tested positive for rabies. Individuals who may have been in contact with the animal should call the health department at 813-5000 to determine whether they should get treatment for the disease. The raccoon is the third rabid animal of the summer found in Larchmont. A rabid skunk was trapped on Sherwood Oval in August. In June, a rabid raccoon was found near Sherwood Drive and Boston Post Road. The local cases are part of a rash of rabies throughout Westchester County this summer. Health officials issued a rabies alert in July after the 25th case was discovered.

North Carolina 09/07/11 vancnews.com: by Luci Weldon – A raccoon found south of Warrenton on Aug. 29 has tested positive for rabies, making it the seventh rabid raccoon found in the county this year. Elma Rae Greene, director of Warren County Animal Control, said that the raccoon was found in the area near the intersection of Baltimore Road and Baltimore Church Road. She said that a dog owned by a local resident had killed the raccoon. Animal Control believes that the raccoon came to the property shortly after Hurricane Irene. When they arrived to pick up the animal, there were visible signs that it had been quite sick, Greene said. She said that the dog that killed the raccoon was not current on its rabies vaccinations and was isolated at the Warren County Animal Ark. In such situations, unvaccinated dogs and cats that are exposed to rabid animals may be confined for six months at the owner’s expense or humanely euthanized. Greene said that the dog in this case was humanely euthanized.

Canada:

Ontario 09/07/11 theenterprisebulletin.com: The Ministry of Natural Resources will be releasing approximately 266,000 baits containing a rabies vaccine in southwestern Ontario next week.  Collingwood is on the eastern edge of the region to will be baited, and includes areas south of town. According to a news release from MNR, the bait drop program is one of the most successful rabies eradication programs in North America. The vaccine will control the spread of rabies in skunks and foxes and help continue to keep Ontario’s raccoons free of rabies.  The flavoured baits immunize most skunks, foxes and raccoons that eat them. Baits are small and khaki green, with a toll-free rabies hotline number stamped on them. If you see baits, please leave them undisturbed. The MNR notes that Ontario raccoons have been free of rabies since September 2005, and 2010 marked the lowest number of rabies-positive animals with the ‘Ontario fox’ strain in the province since the disease became established in Ontario in 1958. Last year there were only 39 cases of rabies diagnosed in Ontario. Of these cases, only 10 were found in wildlife, and Ontario has reduced rabies cases in the province by more than 99 per cent since rabies control programs began 20 years ago. Exposure to a bait is not harmful to people or pets. However, if a person or a pet comes in contact with the vaccine in the bait, the MNR says that contacting a doctor or veterinarian as a precaution is recommended.

Follow-Up Reports:

Henderson County

North Carolina 09/07/11 citizen-times.com: (See September 6, 2011: North Carolina child’s death likely caused by LACROSSE ENCEPHALITIS) Health officials confirmed the brother of the Henderson County 8-year-old girl who died last week had La Crosse viral encephalitis, a mosquito-borne illness. The state public health laboratory confirmed La Crosse infection in the boy, but they were inconclusive in the girl, who succumbed to the disease, officials announced Wednesday. Samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control for further testing and it is unknown when results of the latest tests will be available.

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