HARRISBURG – Dr. Walter Cottrell, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, today announced test results for a beaver that attacked three individuals in northeast Philadelphia show that the animal was infected with the rabies virus. Test results were provided to the Game Commission today, at 2:10 p.m., by the Department of Health’s Bureau of Laboratories in Exton, Chester County.
Yesterday evening, the beaver carcass was taken to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, Chester County, and prepared for transfer for rabies testing at the Department of Health facility. A full necropsy will be conducted at New Bolton to determine if there were other potential causes, such as injury or another type of disease.
As a precaution, Game Commission officials continue to encourage residents to avoid the Pennypack Creek waterfront area between Bustleton Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia.
On June 1, a husband and wife were fishing in the Bustleton Avenue area when a large beaver bit the woman’s leg. As her husband attempted to assist her, the beaver turned and bit him in both arms and chest area. Game Commission WCO Jerry Czech, who serves Philadelphia and parts of Delaware County, responded to the hospital and interviewed the two victims.
On June 2, in the area of Roosevelt Boulevard, a child was bitten by a beaver. While at the hospital to interview the victim’s family, WCO Czech received word that a Fairmount Park Ranger had captured a beaver 500 yards from where the child was bitten. WCO Czech responded to the scene and put the animal down and transported it to the New Bolton Center.
Last night, June 2, from 8 p.m. until midnight, WCO Czech, other Game Commission WCOs and USDA Wildlife Services attempted to search for other beavers in the vicinity. A search of the area will continue, and Game Commission officials are encouraging residents seeing beavers or other mammals acting in a suspicious manner to report that information to the agency’s Southeast Region Office at 610-926-3136 or local law enforcement.
In late April a rabid beaver was found in the White Clay Creek area of Chester County. According to WCO Keith Mullin, in that incident, a local angler heard a splash behind him and turned to see a beaver swimming toward him.
“The beaver bit the angler on the back of his leg and attempted to come at him again,” WCO Mullin said. “The fisherman was able to drown the beaver after quite a struggle and suffered another bite on his hand. I met him at the site to retrieve the carcass, which was then submitted for rabies testing and, unfortunately, it came back positive.”
Rabies is a viral disease affecting the nervous system. It is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected animal. According to the state Health Department, rabies continues to be a significant public health problem in the Commonwealth. Since the year 2000, between 350 and 500 animals are annually confirmed in the laboratory to have rabies. Health Department reports show that, in 2010, 53 percent of the animal rabies cases were raccoons, followed by skunks (14 percent), cats (14 percent), bats (7 percent), and foxes (6 percent).
While an animal with rabies may exhibit abnormal or aggressive behavior, this is not always the case. If bitten by any animal, the first step in rabies prevention is to immediately wash the wound with plenty of soap and warm water, and then promptly seek medical care. If the circumstances of the exposure warrant, human rabies vaccine may be prescribed by medical officials.
The last human rabies fatality in Pennsylvania was a 12â€‘yearâ€‘old Lycoming County boy who died in 1984.
If any human contact occurs in the area with beavers or other mammals, once medical care has been administered, a report should be made to the Game Commission’s Southeast Region Office (610-926-3136).
Jerry Feaser (717) 705-6541 or [email protected]