Sunday, October 4, 2015

RABIES


We live in a rural area where wildlife abounds.  Around our home I have sighted many examples of this, such as raccoons, skunks, and bats, among others.  Interestingly enough, these same animals account for the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species in the United States.  In fact, as recently as July of this year, the Tehama County Health Services Agency issued a warning to County residents concerning the threat of rabies.  Even though no human cases were reported within the area as of the date of the warning, the agency did report that rabies in bats was considered widespread within the county.

While many of us may never come across a rabid wild animal, the possibility definitely exists that one of our pets will, especially when allowed to roam freely.  Therein lies the risk to humans.  According to the World Health Organization, domestic dogs, through bites or scratches, transmitted the rabies virus in more than 99% of the human cases reported.  Of note, children between the ages of 5–14 years of age are the most frequent victims, which is not surprising since the highest incidence of dog bite injuries occur within the same parameters.

Since rabies has been a popular theme in many novels and films, opinion often is that a rabid animal can be easily identified because of the foaming at the mouth, the baring of teeth with overt aggressiveness, and the uncontrollable drooling.  Unfortunately, these symptoms are usually indicative of the latter stages of the disease.  What one may find, instead, is that a wild animal may lose its dread of humans and come within close proximity.  Another signal could be a nocturnal animal becoming active during the day.  Neither sign is representative of the prevalent perception.

Wildlife is more likely to be rabid than our domestic animals.  Our amount of contact with domestics is typically larger than our contact with wild animals.  When a rabid wild animal does infect a pet of ours, our risk in contracting the disease greatly increases.  So you might ask “Why all the concern?”  The concern is that once a person begins to show signs of rabies their chances of survival are extremely poor.  The first signs of rabies mimic typical flu symptoms such as fever, general weakness, and headache.  Within days other symptoms appear such as insomnia, anxiety, confusion, and agitation.  As the disease continues to progress, delirium, abnormal behavior, and hallucinations occur.  Shortly thereafter organ failure occurs and death ensues.  Therefore, all of us should make every effort to limit possible rabies exposure and to provide adequate immunity to our pets. 

To limit possible exposure, we begin by vaccinating.  According to California law, all dogs over four months old are required to be vaccinated for rabies.  It is also highly encouraged that other animals, like cats and horses, that are outdoors and have the possibility of contact with wild animals, also be vaccinated.  Unfortunately, there will always be those who will not or do not vaccinate their animals.  Unvaccinated animals allowed to roam outdoors, without adequate supervision, are exposed to wild animal vectors and other domestics that could be infected.  In addition, avoiding contact with wild animals or any pet that is unfamiliar can aid in preventing unnecessary exposure.

If you or your pet is bitten by an unfamiliar animal, seek immediate medical or veterinarian attention.  In addition, report the incident to the Tehama County Health Services Agency (530-527-6824).  You will also need to contact the appropriate Animal Control agency.  In the city limits of Red Bluff, call the Red Bluff Police Department (530-527-3131).  In the city limits of Corning, call the Corning Police Department (530-824-7000).  Anywhere in Tehama County other than the above locations, call the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office (530-529-7900 ext. 1).  It is very important that the biting animal be located, safely apprehended, and assessed for rabies. 

The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Living-with-Wildlife) provides a multitude of resources in dealing with wildlife issues.  However, if do you find a deceased wild animal in your home, contact the above Animal Control agencies about what to do with the remains.  If you are to remove it, be sure to wear gloves before handling it, and place it in a plastic bag.  Try to avoid any direct contact but, if contact does occur, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as is possible.


Additional information regarding Rabies can be found at the Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html ), the California Dept. of Public Health (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/pages/rabies.aspx) and the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rabies/basics/definition/con-20019900 ),

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