|Updated: 6/26/2012 10:13 am
||Published: 6/26/2012 10:10 am
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Misinformation about the proper timing for vaccination has led to the loss of a family pet and more than 17 possible human exposures to rabies in Saline County, the Arkansas Department of Health reported in a release Tuesday.
According to the release, ADH confirmed a case of rabies in both a Saline County family dog and a skunk living less than a mile away. The dog reportedly became ill around June 13, and was eventually put to sleep and tested for rabies. The dog, which was only a puppy, had killed a skunk about six weeks before getting sick, and had likely been bitten by the rabies infested skunk at the time. The dog did not have a rabies vaccine before the family did not think it could be vaccinated before it was six months old. A number of people who were exposed to the dog will be receiving a series of rabies vaccinations to prevent the development of the disease.
The Arkansas Department of Health says this brings the total number of animals that have tested positive for rabies this year to 83, which is well above average.
State law requires all dogs and cats to be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian by 4 months of age. This not only protects the animal, but also acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people.
Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord and is a fatal disease. It is most often seen in animals such as skunks, bats and foxes. Cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock can also develop rabies, especially if they are not vaccinated.
The first sign of rabies in an animal is usually a change in behavior. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem
unnaturally friendly. Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are often present. Skunks may be seen out in daylight, which is an unusual behavior for them, or they may get into a dog pen or under a house. Many animals have a marked change in voice pitch, such as a muted or off-key tone. An animal usually dies within one week of demonstrating signs of rabies. Not all rabid animals act in these ways, however, so you should avoid all wild animals – especially skunks, bats and stray cats and dogs.
If you think you have become exposed to an animal with rabies wash your wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
•Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations
•Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals
•Keep family pets indoors at night
•Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter (The majority of human rabies cases are caused by bat bites.)
•Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them
•Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays, and all other animals they do not know well
Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to your local county health Unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment.
For more information, call the local health unit in your county, or Susan Weinstein, DVM, state public health veterinarian, at 501-280-4136.