If you've been following the news lately, it seems there have been a rash of rabies cases in southern Maine, especially in the Brunswick area. Just this year, there have been 33 confirmed cases. Last year we only had 67 for the whole year, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald. So we seem to be pacing along steadily with last year at this rate.

But is it a record year?

Not entirely. Sure we've seen a lot in the news recently, and the Brunswick area in particular, seems to be getting hit the hardest, with four cases just in recent weeks. There have been stories of men and women, young and old, having to deal with aggression from rabid foxes. Foxes are normally skittish creatures that avoid human contact.

So is this an epidemic? No. In fact, Emily Spencer, from the Maine Center for Disease Control, was very careful not to call it that.

I know that the word ‘epidemic’ has been floating around out there and we would say it’s a high number of cases given the time period and geographic area, but it’s not an epidemic. Maybe a cluster would be a more appropriate word.”

There is only a very small risk to humans. There hasn't been a confirmed case of human rabies since 1937. But folks should consider their pets, indoor or outdoor, at high risk for rabies. Outdoor pets are often attacked without their owners even knowing until well after.

According to the Rabies info page at Maine.gov, here's a few facts about rabies to keep in the back of your mind:

  • Clinical signs usually appear within 15 to 25 days after exposure. It may take as long as one year for the virus to travel to the brain.
  • Rabies can be spread by animals eating the carcass of infected animals.
  • In a frozen state, the rabies virus can last for years.
  • Normally, the rabies virus cannot live in a warm putrefied environment and survives in the body less than 24 hours after death.
  • Post exposure treatment for people exposed to a rabid animal can cost over $2000.00.

So it's definitely a good idea to avoid contact with any animal that might be sick. It's not advisable to do anything if you see a sick animal, other than to go inside where it's safe and call 911. Don't engage the animal, don't try to shoot it, just call the qualified professionals to take care of the issue.

If you have more questions about rabies, or wondering what to do if you or your pet is expose, this web page can set you up with a ton of information about what to do. The Maine CDC takes rabies very seriously, and so should we. The best thing we can possibly arm ourselves with, is the proper knowledge of what to do. So visit this web page for all the most up to date info from the state of Maine.

But most of all.....stay safe out there!