The disease remains in our wildlife, especially raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Although its frequency is minimal, and some even mistakenly believe it has been all but eliminated, these advancements didn’t happen by accident and certainly not overnight.
Medical research and veterinary care have made significant progress in controlling the illness which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as “... a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.”
CDC specifies the rabies virus “... infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.”
Early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to many other illnesses such as fever, headache, general weakness and discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia, which is defined as a fear of water. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
In a former day and time, rabies was a legitimate fear. Although the threat still exists, its frequency is strategically lessened by maintaining a barrier between wildlife and pets. This is another way of saying do not allow domestic pets to roam unsupervised, especially in areas where they are most likely to come into contact with wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. And do keep pets vaccinated.
To help protect pets and their owners, Cleveland and Bradley County veterinarians are again teaming to provide the annual Rabies Clinics that are being hosted in a variety of locations. The clinics are already underway.
Those that remain, their times and locations, include:
1. Tuesday, May 7: Michigan Avenue School, Waterville School and Black Fox Elementary School, 6 to 7 p.m.
2. Thursday, May 9: Taylor Elementary School, Prospect Elementary School and Bellefounte Baptist Church, 6 to 7 p.m.
3. Saturday, May 11: Cleveland Animal Shelter and Charleston Firehall, 2 to 3 p.m.
This year’s Rabies Clinics are again sponsored by the Bradley County Veterinary Medical Association. Rabies vaccinations are being provided at a reduced $12 cost.
All vet offices in Cleveland are participating in the annual clinic. No appointment is necessary if a rabies vaccination is the only service needed. It is important that pet owners remember a rabies vaccination is mandatory.
Another reminder is that pet owners bringing cats to the clinics should keep them in the vehicles. Vets will administer their vaccines there.
Rabies today is rare, but it is not extinct.
Getting pets vaccinated at reduced rates on any of these remaining Rabies Clinic dates could save lives — those of our much beloved pets and their owners.