Rise In Development, Wildlife Increase Rabies Cases In NC

The number of rabies cases in North Carolina has topped the 2005 total, and officials expect the trend to continue as wildlife populations and land development increase.

By Tuesday, 480 animals had been identified as having the deadly virus. That exceeds last year's total of 458. In 1997, North Carolinians reported 879 cases, a peak year as rabies swept the entire state for the first time.

Wake County has averaged fewer than a dozen cases a year in the past five years. In 2006, the county has seen 23 cases, trailing only Guilford County with more than 30 cases reported this year.

Officials say raccoons driven from rural areas by construction are the primary culprits. Coyotes, foxes, groundhogs, cows and one ferret have been positively identified with rabies in NorthCarolina this year.

No one is known to have died from rabies in North Carolina since 1953, when a Cherokee County woman died after being bitten by her own dog.