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Rabies cases might be on rise this year

Seasonal increase forecast by officials

Keep an eye out for rabid animals.

That is the warning from local animal control officers, some of whom believe this could be a bad year for rabies.

Brenda Hamelin, animal control officer for Medway and Millis, said that by early April she had picked up 10 raccoons that she believed were sick, an unusual number for early spring.

"I think we're going to see a huge amount of rabies this year," she said. "It's out there all the time, but every few years it blows up."

According to the state Department of Public Health, Medway had already requested five rabies tests on animals earlier this month, compared with nine such tests requested by the town in all of last year.

Other towns in the area -- Franklin, Millis, Wrentham, and Norfolk -- have each requested two tests so far this year.

Cindy Souza and Tracey Holmes, animal control officers for Franklin and Bellingham, said they have seen an increase in calls for suspected rabid animals.

Rabies is a contagious and potentially fatal neurological disease that can be passed from animals to people through a bite or scratch. Souza said there have been many animals that were probably infected already this year, but not many cases of human contact.

Alison O'Leary Murray can be reached at