Rabies prevention event to get underway Monday

By LARRY C. BOWERS larry.bowers@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 4/20/17

For almost 40 years, veterinary clinics in and around Cleveland have taken time in the spring to make local residents aware of the dangers of rabies, and the importance of having your pets …

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Rabies prevention event to get underway Monday

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For almost 40 years, veterinary clinics in and around Cleveland have taken time in the spring to make local residents aware of the dangers of rabies, and the importance of having your pets vaccinated.

Also, it’s the law.

Dogs and cats must receive their rabies prevention vaccines annually to prevent the spread of this dreaded disease. One thing many people do not realize is that rabies contracted by a human is 100 percent fatal when left undetected for too long.

There is a life-saving series of shots, but they are only effective if the disease is detected and diagnosed within 10 days.

Dr. Brad Huttenhoff, president of the Cleveland/Bradley County Veterinarians Association, emphasized this is a region prone to rabies in wildlife. The most dangerous wild animals which could infect your pets are raccoons, skunks and bats.

Raccoons and skunks are prone to come into contact with pets as they rummage for food in trash receptacles in residential areas.

Huttenhoff said there is a high rate of rabies in bats. He said at least one research study showed that 1 in every 100 bats could be rabid.

This year the rabies prevention campaign being recognized by local veterinarians will run from April 24 through Saturday, May 6.

In the past, the veterinary association had conducted regional clinics where local residents and pet owners could bring their animals. Huttenhoff said that due to a continual decline of the program, the veterinarians decided to limit the vaccination program to their individual clinics.

Rabies vaccinations are usually $15 to $16 during the year, but during these two weeks, they will be offered for $12 per animal.

The association president pointed out that this is not only an effort to get everyone to have their pets vaccinated, it is also an opportunity to check the animals for other health concerns.

He said pet owners sometimes neglect getting proper vaccinations for their pets, and their health can be put at risk without the owners realizing the danger.

Veterinary clinics participating in the vaccination campaign this year include Appalachian Animal Clinic on Spring Place Road, Animal Medical Center at 3350 Henderson Ave., Bradley Veterinary Hospital at 5527 Georgetown Road, Cleveland Animal Hospital at 2260 South Lee Highway, Community Animal Hospital at 2845 Westside Drive, Keith Street Animal Clinic at 1990 Keith St., Dixie Day Spay Clinic at 182 Airport Road, and Taylor Animal Hospital at 2840 Keith St.

Also joining the effort will be the Emergency Animal Hospital in Charleston and the Bradley County Health Department. The emergency hospital is only open in the late evening and overnight.

Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals. Early symptoms can include fever and tingling at the site of exposure.

These symptoms are followed by one or more of the following symptoms: violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, an inability to move parts of the body, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Once symptoms appear, the result is nearly always death.

The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is usually one to three months; however, this time can vary from less than a week to more than a year. The time is dependent on the distance the virus must travel to reach the central nervous system.

Huttenhoff pointed out that to be infected there must be a puncture wound from the infected animal.

Dogs are the most common transmitters in underdeveloped countries, but in the Americas, bat bites are the most common source of rabies infections in humans, and less than 5 percent of cases are from dogs. Rodents are very rarely infected with rabies.

The rabies virus travels to the brain by following the peripheral nerves. The disease can only be diagnosed after the start of symptoms after 10 days.

Animal control and vaccination programs have decreased the risk of rabies from dogs in the more populated regions of the world.

Huttenhoff also pointed out that immunizing people before they are exposed is recommended for those who are at high risk, and there is a human rabies vaccine in addition to the animal rabies vaccine.

This high-risk group includes people who work with animals, such as veterinary clinic employees, or those who spend prolonged periods in areas of the world where rabies is common.

In people who have been exposed to rabies, the rabies vaccine and sometimes rabies immunoglobulin are effective in preventing the disease — if the person receives the treatment before exhibiting symptoms.

Washing bites and scratches for 15 minutes with soap and water, povidone iodine, or detergent may reduce the number of viral particles, and may be somewhat effective at preventing transmission.

Only five people have survived a rabies infection after showing symptoms, and this was with extensive treatment known as the Milwaukee protocol.

Rabies caused about 17,500 deaths worldwide in 2015.

More than 95 percent of human deaths caused by rabies occur in Africa and Asia, and about 40 percent of deaths occur in children under the age of 15. Rabies is present in more than 150 countries, and on all continents but Antarctica.

Billions of people live in regions of the world where rabies occurs. A number of countries, including Australia and Japan, and much of Western Europe, do not have rabies among dogs. Many small island nations around the world are fortunate they do not have rabies at all.

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