DEM, RIDOH Confirm That Coyote Involved in Human Attacks in Scituate and Johnston was Rabid

Published on Monday, February 12, 2024

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) are announcing that a single coyote that was likely involved in separate attacks on people Feb. 8 in Scituate and Feb. 9 in Johnston was rabid. A Johnston man who was bitten on the leg killed the coyote near Bellfield Drive. DEM Environmental Police Officers took the carcass for testing. RIDOH’s Rhode Island State Health Laboratories confirmed the rabies diagnosis.

Rabies is a viral disease acquired from the bite or scratch of a rabid animal. Without a post-exposure vaccine series, virtually all cases are fatal. This post-exposure vaccination should be administered as soon as possible to anyone with a known or likely exposure to rabies, including those who received prior pre-exposure prophylaxis. Anyone who may have had contact with this animal is urged to call RIDOH’s Center for Acute Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 401-222-2577 (Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:30 PM) or 401-276-8046 after hours for treatment guidance.

“Along with my peers at RIDOH, I urge anyone in Scituate and Johnston who may have come into contact with the coyote to call the RIDOH Infectious Disease division,” said Rhode Island State Veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall. “If pet owners in these two communities believe their pet has interacted with coyote, call or visit your veterinarian to make sure your pet’s rabies vaccination is current. Rabies is virtually always preventable with the vaccination. Animal owners also need to report the exposure to your local animal control officer.”

All dogs, cats, and ferrets are required by state law to have current vaccination against rabies. Vaccination of pets prevents them from contracting rabies and prevents people from becoming exposed to rabies through their pets. Bats in Rhode Island are also known to be infected with the bat strain of rabies. Bat rabies strains are highly transmissible to humans, and preventive vaccination is often recommended for exposure by proximity even without a visible wound, if the bat is not available for testing.

RIDOH and DEM make the following recommendations to prevent rabies:

  • Make sure all dogs and cats are up to date on rabies vaccination.
  • Avoid all contact with and do not feed stray or free-roaming domestic animals.
  • Avoid all contact with and do not feed wild animals.
  • Do not feed your pets outdoors, as this will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats.
  • Protect your pets by always maintaining control. Walk dogs on a leash or let them play in a fenced yard, and do not let pets wander unsupervised.
  • Report all animal bites to your city/town’s animal control officer.
  • Securely cover all garbage cans so wild animals cannot scavenge for food.
  • Bat-proof your house.

For more information on how to prevent rabies, please visit RIDOH’s website.

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