file photo of Cliff the Coyote

Rhode Island Confirms that Coyote Involved in Recent Human Attacks was Rabid

In a joint announcement, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) have revealed that a lone coyote responsible for separate attacks on individuals in Scituate on February 8 and Johnston on February 9 has tested positive for rabies. The aggressive animal was ultimately killed near Bellfield Drive by a Johnston resident who had been bitten on the leg. DEM Environmental Police Officers collected the carcass for examination, and RIDOH’s Rhode Island State Health Laboratories subsequently confirmed the rabies diagnosis.

Rabies, a viral disease transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal, poses a severe threat, with virtually all cases resulting in fatality without prompt post-exposure vaccination. Individuals with known or suspected exposure to rabies, including those who have previously received pre-exposure prophylaxis, are strongly urged to seek immediate treatment. Those who may have come into contact with the rabid coyote are encouraged to contact RIDOH’s Center for Acute Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 401-222-2577 during regular hours or 401-276-8046 after hours for guidance on treatment.

Rhode Island State Veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall emphasized the importance of reporting any contact with the coyote in Scituate and Johnston. Pet owners in these areas are advised to consult their veterinarians to ensure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date, as vaccination is a crucial preventive measure. Animal owners are also urged to report exposures to their local animal control officers.

State law mandates that all dogs, cats, and ferrets are current on rabies vaccinations. Vaccinating pets not only protects them from contracting rabies but also shields humans from potential exposure through their animals. Additionally, Rhode Island has identified bats carrying the bat strain of rabies, which is highly transmissible to humans. Precautionary vaccination is often recommended even without a visible wound if exposure to a bat occurs.

RIDOH and DEM have issued the following recommendations to prevent rabies:

  • Ensure all dogs and cats are up to date on rabies vaccinations.
  • Avoid contact with and refrain from feeding stray or free-roaming domestic animals.
  • Steer clear of wild animals and do not provide them with food.
  • Refrain from outdoor pet feeding, particularly in areas with numerous free-roaming cats.
  • Maintain control of pets by using leashes or allowing them to play in fenced yards, avoiding unsupervised wandering.
  • Report all animal bites to local animal control officers.
  • Securely cover garbage cans to prevent wild animals from scavenging for food.
  • Implement measures to bat-proof homes.




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