An otter, who tested positive for the lethal virus, rabies, attacked and bit two tourists in Virginia Beach, according to a Pilot Online report. City officials say the attacks happened near the 2200 block of North Sandpiper Road in Sandbridge.

Image/Verna Gill and Angela Doroff, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/Verna Gill and Angela Doroff, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

13 News Now reports that an eyewitness said a young girl was on a paddle board in the canal behind her house when the otter jumped out of the water and attacked her. The girl’s father went after the otter and strangled it. Both were bitten and both had to be treated at an area hospital.

The victims have started rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

Environmental Health Manager Dan Horne said its not clear how the otter was exposed, but he did remind the public of the urgency of taking care of yourself if you are bitten. “When you have a situation like this, it takes priority over any other thing we do,” Horne said. “We have to drop everything that we’re doing.”

This is the fourth otter to test positive for rabies in the area in the past 16 years.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies.Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

Worldwide, it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually. Human rabies cases are extremely rare in the United States, which averages  less than five human rabies cases annually.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

Related news: 

Tularemia strikes North Dakota: 3 human cases, Dakota Zoo primates 

Cat plague reported in Grand County, Colorado 

Nigeria’s polio milestone not finished