Following a rabid beaver attack on Tuesday evening, the private lake in the Lake Barcroft community has been closed temporarily to residents.
“We swim in that lake all the time. We’ve never had a situation like this,” said Sally Determan, president of the Lake Barcroft Association. “Residents are currently prohibited from swimming in the lake.”
On Wednesday, night. According to Determan, a biologist estimated 12 to 15 beavers live on the lake. ABC 7 identified the 83-year-old woman as Lillian Peterson. Peterson suffered injuries to her arms and legs during the attack and was treated at INOVA Fairfax Hospital. Police later said the beaver tested positive for rabies, so Peterson received a round of post-exposure shots.
Rabies is primarily transmitted through saliva, according to Fairfax County Health Department’s Medical Epidemiologist Dr. Peter Troell. Troell could not offer specifics regarding the Lake Barcroft incident, but said “animals are more likely to bite when they get rabid and that’s why humans get attacked by them.”
Troell said the post-exposure shots are standard when someone is exposed to the rabies virus. The shots are distributed over a two-week period.
“If given following exposure, [the shots] are effective at preventing rabies,” said Troell.
The time between when a person is exposed to rabies and when they develop symptoms is relatively long, ranging from weeks to a month, and varies by the health and condition of a person’s immune system.
The Fairfax County Health Department tests approximately 450 animals each year. Of that number, Troell said 40-60 end up testing positive for rabies.
“Rabies is something we know is in the county’s wildlife population. Most commonly, they are raccoons, skunks, foxes and the occasional bat, but any wild animal can be infected,” said Troell.
Determan said board members have spoken with local experts to determine whether or not the beaver could have infected other animals around the lake. Preliminary investigations say that seems unlikely, according to Determan, but the investigations are ongoing.
To reduce the risk of exposure to rabies, Troell offers the the following tips to residents:
- Vaccinate your pets against rabies and keep inoculations current.
- State law and County ordinance require dogs and cats four months of age and older to be inoculated.
- Vaccine must be administered every one to three years, depending on the type used and the age of the animal.
- The Animal Services Division holds low-cost rabies clinics for dogs and cats throughout the year. For more information on this, call the Animal Shelter at 703-830-1100.
- Warn children to keep away from wildlife and encourage them to report any physical contact with animals.
- Minimize contact between pets and wildlife, especially at night. Walk pets on a leash. Feed cats and dogs inside.
- Eliminate possible sources of food for wildlife from your yard and keep trash can lids tightly closed.
- Do not keep wild animals as pets. Even baby skunks and raccoons can carry the rabies virus.