Rabid Raccoon Attacks Hiker

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The raccoon scratched and bit her leg. The raccoon scratched and bit her leg.
The family was able to kill the raccoon. The family was able to kill the raccoon.

The attack came without warning. A rabid raccoon turned a routine hike into anything but for a Madison County family. Their run in with danger, is serving as a warning for those who want to travel outdoors this summer.

The number of rabid animals spiked last year in our area and indications are that it's going back down. But, you have to be prepared and protect yourself against an unexpected attack. What started out as a holiday hike in the woods with family, quickly turned into a different kind of adventure for Kalie Sealander.

"I heard this weird snorting noise coming up from the creek bed. There was a raccoon running up the hill towards us," said Kalie.

The 22-year-old from Madison was attacked and bitten by a rabid raccoon while in the Shenandoah National Park.

"It ended up grabbing my leg and pretty much sunk its teeth into my leg," she explained.

The attack came without warning and according to animal control officers that is common for animals affected with rabies. The virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing death.

Albemarle County Animal Control Officer Larry Crickenberger stated, "Rabies is somewhat controlled but it is not eradicated by any means. So you have to use caution whenever you see any type of wildlife."

Nationally, the CDC says in 2009 there were 6,690 cases of rabies in animals. Wild life accounted for 92 percent of the cases. In the Thomas Jefferson Health District, 20 animals tested positive for rabies last year. And four, so far, this year.

If you are bitten, University of Virginia emergency room doctors say you have between 24 and 48 hours to get help. A series of shots is standard in rabies cases.

UVA Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine Dr. Sara Sutherland said "You want to get away from the animal and the best thing you can do is get to stream where you can wash the wound with soap and water."

Sealander is making a full recovery. She got her final rabies shot on Friday and the animal bites are healing.

Click here for more information on rabies.