WASHINGTON -- Rabies in paradise doesn't have such a relaxing ring to it.
Last Thursday, a skunk walked into the Jimmy Buffett-inspired Cheeseburger in Paradise, a restaurant near the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in southern Maryland, and bit a woman on the foot.
Earlier this week, authorities disclosed that the skunk, which was captured and shot in the restaurant's parking lot following the attack, was rabid.
The staff at the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant put a box overtop of the skunk after Thursday’s 3:30 p.m. incident, according to county officials, and an animal control officer used a catch pole to retrieve the skunk from under the box and take it to an area near the restaurant’s parking lot, where it was shot with a .22-caliber rifle.
After examining the dead skunk's brain tissue, Maryland public health officials later confirmed that the animal had rabies.
Southern Maryland News Net reports that the skunk was the sixth animal from St. Mary's County to have been confirmed as rabid in 2012:
Three raccoons and two other skunks involved in contact with owned animals have been confirmed as rabid since January 1. Fourteen animals from St. Mary’s County were confirmed to have rabies in 2011 including two raccoons, five skunks, four foxes and three cats.
Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reports that number is a little higher: "So far in 2012, seven of 24 animals' remains sent for testing from St. Mary’s have tested positive for rabies."
Katherine Feldman, Maryland's state public health veterinarian, told The Huffington Post that it was six as of Monday, when she received the newest available data.
She also said that she's "not surprised" by the skunk attack. Maryland has between 300 and 500 confirmed cases of rabies per year, Feldman said, and aggressiveness like that displayed by the skunk is "the hallmark of rabies." (Rabies is transmitted through saliva, and so rabid animals become likely to bite.)
Feldman said that, unfortunate as the Cheeseburger in Paradise skunk bite case may be, it's also a "fabulous opportunity to remind folks that we have rabies in the state." So people should be sure to vaccinate their pets and "enjoy wildlife from a distance."
This post has been updated to reflect new comments from Feldman.