Bandera County part of Enhanced Rabies Surveillance Program
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
Pictured: Unusual behavior by wild animals may be a sign of rabies and should be reported.
Because a positive case of rabies was confirmed in the central part of the state health department's District 7, the department expanded their Enhanced Rabies Surveillance Program. Bandera County is included in that program.
The program is a follow up of the Oral Rabies Vaccination Program and aims to improve response by related agencies, facilitate testing and improve reporting.
As always in Texas, the species of most concern are foxes, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, skunks and feral or free ranging dogs and cats.
Consider an animal suspect if it seems ill or is acting out of character for the species, the department advises.
Anyone spotting a suspect animal should contact local law enforcement so that the animal can be humanely destroyed. If law enforcement cannot be contacted, the individual is advised to humanely destroy the suspect animal and hold it until the appropriate agency has been notified for pickup.
It is vital to use latex, rubber or leather gloves when handling the dead animals in order to avoid being infected.
If a human or domestic animal has been bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to rabies, contact the Texas Department of State Health Services' Dr. Edward J. Wozniak at 210-863-5713, or 830-591-4382. Sick or strange acting animals, or animals found dead can be reported to Wozniak, or the Texas Wildlife Services Program (TWSP) at San Angelo at 325-655-6101.
As part of this program, the department is "actively trying to test suspicious foxes, coyotes and raccoons for rabies." TWSP has freezers for storing the suspect carcasses.
The health department offers the following things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your pets from rabies:
• Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals, and be cautious of stray dogs and cats. Rabid animals do not always appear ill or vicious.
• Teach children to leave wildlife alone. Be sure your children know to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.
• Call your doctor and your local health department for advice if an animal bites or scratches you. Thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and report the incident immediately!
• Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, or ferrets against rabies. Keep pet vaccinations up-to-date.
• Tightly close garbage cans. Open trash attracts wild or stray animals to your home or yard.
• Feed your pets indoors; never leave pet food outside as this attracts wildlife.
Additional resources for rabies information include: Texas Department of State Health Services: www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/zoonosis; Centers for Disease Control (CDC): www.cdc.gov/rabies; and USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services: www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/.