Rabid Coyote

This coyote discovered in Huntersville in February tested positive for rabies.

Recent rabies cases to the west of Lake Norman have brought the dangerous disease into the public eye once again.

The first Lincoln County rabies case in 2018 was via a dead fox found in May in a Lincolnton “dog lot.” On June 15, a raccoon – the most common rabid animal in the state – that attacked two dogs in Vale later tested positive.

And though there have been no reports this summer in the immediate lake area, a rabid raccoon was found in northwest Charlotte in March, just one month after a coyote was spotted in Huntersville’s Vermillion neighborhood. When Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Control responded to the latter, the coyote was whimpering and had blood on its mouth, and upon discovering it was indeed rabid, the animal was euthanized.

Veterinarians recommend pets get vaccinated to ensure prevention of the rare disease.

Rabies cases by county

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services provides positive rabies cases by county through 2016.


2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Catawba 6 2 4 10 3
Iredell 15 7 7 8 5
Lincoln 6 4 7 3 1
Mecklenburg 27 20 23 22 19

“I’ve been here eight years and have probably seen two cases,” Dr. Amanda DeMaster of Denver’s East Lincoln Animal Hospital said.

Rabies vaccination for dogs, cats and ferrets over the age of 4 months is required by law. It costs $19 at East Lincoln for a one-year vaccine, and $22 for a three-year. Cats can get a specialized one-year there for $25. Lincoln County Animal Services provides one-year vaccines for $7.

“Oftentimes people are fearful, but it’s something we find to be very important,” DeMaster said.

With more populated counties generally reporting the highest number of rabies cases, Mecklenburg has led the state seven of the last eight years, according to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, with a 10-year average of 24.2. Catawba County confirmed its fifth case this year Monday, July 9. The exposed dog was current on its vaccinations and belonged to a Vale resident who called in the incident six days prior.

If vaccinated pets are suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal, DeMaster recommends a booster vaccine within three days.

“There’s very little risk of a vaccinated pet getting rabies,” she said.

But without the protection, the pets are often euthanized.

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, particularly mammals, according to the NCDHHS. 

Symptoms in animals include lethargy, fever and vomiting and progress to excessive salivation, abnormal behavior and aggression, leading to death.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department advises that when a person suffers an animal bite, scratch or saliva exposure to contact Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control at 704-336-5709.


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