Rabies continues to spread across the state, with twelve more counties infected in 1997. Only twenty-two counties out of one hundred have no confirmed cases. Raccoons continue to be the prime carrier of the disease.
Since 1990, rabies cases have nearly doubled each year. The state is facing an epidemic among wild animals. In 1997, 879 cases were confirmed. While raccoons are the prime carriers, bats, foxes, and skunks can also carry the disease.
Rabies broke out in northern Florida in the 1960s and has been moving steadily northward. The disease, which is being carried solely by raccoons, has now reached South Carolina. Health officials estimate that it will spread into North Carolina in the near future.
Caused by raccoons and other wild animals like bats and foxes, the worst rabies outbreak since the 1950s is spreading across the state. By July, 1995, 252 animals - 204 of them raccoons - were confirmed rabid, compared to 89 at the same time in 1994.
The raccoon’s intelligence, flexibility, and social network have helped it become a successful and resilient mammal. Raccoons are also one of the primary vectors for rabies in North Carolina. As raccoons continue to be a part of the rural and urban landscapes, people should be cautious in areas where they are common.