Brunswick officials to create panel to fight rabies


    Brunswick's Animal Control Department says a new panel of experts will help dissect the rabies problem in the area, and will help answer residents' questions. (WGME)

    BRUNSWICK (WGME) -- Brunswick's Animal Control Department says a new panel of experts will help dissect the rabies problem in the area, and will help answer residents' questions.

    "It will be a public forum. We want to bring any expert we can, whether they're a veterinarian, or from the Center of Disease Control, we just want to keep people as informed as possible," Heidi Nelson, Brunswick's Animal Control Officer said.

    She says there is no current timetable for when the forum will take place, but she says it follows the most active weekend of rabid animal incidents.

    "Both the fox from the Moody Road incident on Friday, and also a skunk from an incident on Range Road Saturday, came back with a positive for rabies," Nelson said.

    She says the fox attacked a five-year-old girl and her mom, as well as a nearby neighbor. She says just a day later, a woman on Range Road found a skunk acting "unusual" in the front yard, and they trapped it in a box. Nelson says the problem is that the virus isn't easy to get rid of.

    "In this area, the rabies virus is endemic, it's always here, it's probably something that's never going to be eradicated as much as we would want to see it go away permanently," Nelson said.

    In total, six incidents involving rabid or dangerous animals have happened in Brunswick in the past six weeks.

    "It's certainly concerning that we've seen an increase in rabies in Maine and in particular in the Brunswick area," Dr. Mandie Wehr, a veterinarian for the Coastal Humane Society said.

    The Coastal Humane Society is located about 50 yards away from the location of the rabid skunk incident, and Dr. Wehr says the closeness of the problem shows how important it is to keep all pets vaccinated.

    "Rabies is fatal if they do contract the disease themselves, so it's important for them to stay up to date, even if it's been only a couple years since the last shot, we highly recommend you take your pet to a vet or one of the low cost animal clinics and give them a booster shot this year," Wehr said.

    She says that residents should be careful when doing outdoor activities, and to be weary of all wild animals.

    "Some common things you may see in a rabid animal include things like spinning, or they may look a little bit drunk, they sometimes are very thin and very unkempt looking, but the biggest thing you are looking for is behavior that seems odd for that animal," Wehr said.

    Nelson says it's important to keep your distance if you come across an animal acting strangely.

    "Make sure you have something that you can put between the animal and you. They're just looking for something to bite, and if you have a stick or lawn chair, they will bite that while you back up towards an exit," Nelson said.

    The Brunswick Police Department says it will release more information at a later date when the public forum is finalized.

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