FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2023
Contact: Sarah Richards, Public Relations Specialist
Nome, Alaska – The NSHC Office of Environmental Health is encouraging residents of the region to make sure that their pets are vaccinated against the rabies virus after a moose tested positive for rabies in Teller.
On June 2, several community members in Teller reported that a moose was acting aggressively toward people and showing other signs of rabies. Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game responded, and the moose later tested positive for rabies.
This was the first confirmed case of rabies in moose in Alaska. The virus detected was the same variant of the rabies virus that has been found in red foxes recently, which according to ADF&G, suggests the moose was most likely infected by a fox.
“Due to this new case, ADF&G plans to increase rabies surveillance by testing all brain samples from wild mammals found dead or euthanized from regions with enzootic fox rabies, including Western Alaska, when feasible,” stated a press release from ADF&G on Wednesday.
ADF&G encourages anyone who finds a dead mammal or sees a mammal exhibiting signs of rabies, to report their sighting immediately to ADF&G. Signs of rabies include sudden behavioral changes, such as staggering, aggression, fatigue, excessive drooling, uncoordinated movements, biting at themselves, chasing vehicles, or acting unaware of their surroundings. Photos and videos can be helpful to evaluate the animal, but it is most important to keep your distance to avoid exposure.
“OEH will be continuing education and outreach regarding rabies prevention, vaccinations, and dog bite prevention,” Alicia Reitz, OEH Specialist, said. “We will also be assisting Fish and Game as much as possible with increasing surveillance efforts within the region.”
According to the ADF&G state wildlife veterinarian, moose that are showing normal behavior are considered safe to consume. There are several precautions that can be taken when harvesting any mammal, such as using rubber or latex gloves, washing your hands after handling the animal, and disinfecting any equipment used during the process. Hunters and trappers should not eat, drink, or smoke until they have sanitized their hands. The meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before consumption.
“The best way to protect people from the rabies virus is to vaccinate our dogs and cats,” Reitz said. “Additionally, keeping dogs tied up to minimize potential interactions with foxes and other wildlife as well as limiting accessibility for foxes to garbage or other attractants are important preventative measures as well.”
All dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies at three months old, again one year later, and every three years after that. Vaccines are free through OEH as part of the Lay Vaccinator program.
“If there are any fox-dog interactions, folks can reach out to OEH for follow up guidance,” Reitz said. “If there are any fox-people interactions, wash any wounds with soap and water then see a provider immediately. If there are any mammals that have been put down or found dead, reach out to Fish and Game or OEH to facilitate testing.”
To contact ADF&G to report anything wildlife-related, call 907-443-2271. To reach out to OEH in regards to pet exposure or vaccinations, call 907-434-1659 or 907-434-0543.
To read the full ADF&G press release, visit: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/applications/publicnotification/2023/releases/R5-AA-23-1055.pdf