But considering the timing of this news—coinciding with a report of a fifth rabid raccoon in Monongalia County that has gotten into a tussle with a family dog—maybe there’s an upside.
As a reptile, a python cannot get rabies, which is a disease that only affects and kills mammals.
So maybe when if the python continues to remain on loose, he could help us out with our raccoon population.
And maybe he could add in some mosquitoes as appetizers.
All joking—or wishful thinking—aside, the fact is that when you go into the world you should take precautions, something we at Monongalia County Health Department preach even during non-python visitor summers.
That includes as we head into summer, not only with the rabid raccoons that we know have been in the area but also mosquitoes that are pesky and can carry diseases.
That’s true even if the snake that escaped from its owner’s car late last month and now has its own Twitter account is found (fingers crossed!) anytime soon.
But even if there weren’t a python roaming Morgantown that, if it lives long enough, could grow to the diameter of a dinner plate, raccoons should be enough of a deterrent to keep your pets within sight.
Since early February, 11 raccoons found in Monongalia County and tested for rabies have turned up positive. Five of those got into scuffles with family dogs. In those instances, the dogs had to be re-vaccinated for rabies and either observed or quarantined.
In some of those situations, owners also interacted with their dogs soon after the raccoons did. This could include getting blood on their hands or allowing the pooches to lick them. Rabies is primarily transmitted via a bite or saliva getting into a cut, but it’s difficult to tell if saliva is mixed in with blood.
And that contact could be enough for a physician to recommend that a dog owner receive the four-shot rabies prophylaxis series to make sure the human also stays rabies-free.
After all, once any mammal begins to show signs of rabies, it’s pretty much too late to be saved from this preventable but ultimately fatal disease.
To avoid this scenario from happening once again, cats and dogs should be kept up to date on their rabies vaccines. And it’s best to keep cats indoors and only take dogs out on leashes, or at least to stay with them while they run around the yard.
While in your yard, you also might want to consider how to keep mosquitoes away. Mosquitoes in our area have been found to carry diseases, including West Nile Virus, so avoiding them is key.
The first thing is to eliminate standing water, which attracts mosquitoes and provides a place for them to lay eggs. Any buckets or troughs that collect water should be removed or turned over.
Do you have pools or birdbaths that naturally hold water? MCHD Environmental Health has a product available to the public for free called Mosquito Dunks. The doughnut-shaped item is placed in standing water and slowly releases mosquito larvicide into the water for up to 30 days.
The Environmental Protection Agency-approved dunks are not toxic to people and are harmless to beneficial insects, pets, birds, fish and wildlife. Dunks can be used in birdbaths, flowerpots, rain barrels, roof gutters, unused swimming pools, water gardens, tree holes and other places where standing water might attract mosquitoes.
For more advice on avoiding mosquitoes this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts this information on its website. And if you want a free package of Mosquito Dunks, call MCHD Environmental Health at 304-598-5131