Necropsy results of dead Tiverton calf: no public health risk


TIVERTON — A necropsy on a brown Tiverton calf that died July 26 has been completed. The results "showed no evidence that the calf posed any public health threat," the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) announced late Tuesday.

Andrea Degos, a spokeswoman for the DOH, said the necropsy was performed by the University of Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Lab.

The lab, said the DOH, "determined that this calf's condition was due to complications from parasites that do not cause illness in humans. Therefore, there is no risk to the public who may have had contact with this animal."

The animal had  been kept in a viewing pen next to Gray's Ice Cream store in Tiverton Four Corners, and was accessible to members of the public who chose to approach it, and could make physical contact through the fence with it.

The DOH said for the first time Wednesday that the necropsied animal had been euthanized July 26. Previously the animal had been thought to have died of other unknown causes.

The euthanizing of the brown calf happened after another calf — a black and white one kept in the same enclosure — had died July 21, but had so badly decomposed by the time that DOH and Department of Environmental Management (DEM) officials had been able to get to it that testing for rabies or any other pathogen could not be performed.

The black and white calf had bitten a Massachusetts child and public health authorities — acting, they said, "out of an abundance of caution, in treating the death as though he was infected with rabies" — advised any individuals who may have touched the black and white animal between July 5 and July 21 to contact DOH.

Ms. Degos said last Friday that DOH assessed 273 Rhode Island residents for their at-risk exposure to rabies during this interval to that calf and 23 of them were recommended to secure rabies treatment by a clinical medical provider of their choice.

Ms. Degos said DOH does not know how many actually obtained rabies treatment.

Despite the necropsy results, the DOH has announced it is still recommending that anyone who has begun rabies treatment as a result of being assessed for exposure, should complete the treatment.

Until last Friday, it was commonly understood that only two calves had died: a black and white one on July 21, and the euthanized brown one on July 26.

Knowledge about the death of a third calf — in June — surfaced last week. Officials at both the state DOH and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) say they only became aware of the June death of the first calf last Friday, Aug. 9 — too late by far to test its tissue for possible causes of its death.

No causes or probably causes of death for the calf that died in June or for the black and white one that hads decomposed before testing could be done have been announced by either the DOH or DEM.



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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.