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2014-12-11

Rabies data & bite protocol

By Conrad Nightingale, DVM

By Conrad Nightingale, DVM
Special to the Courier

Cases of animal and human rabies are reported annually within the United States with rabies cases being notifiable nationally since 1944.
Despite its high fatality rate once clinical signs develop, rabies is entirely preventable if post-exposure prophylaxis is administered in a timely manner after a suspected rabies exposure.
Rabies is a viral zoonosis that affects the central nervous system of warm-blood animals and humans. Transmission occurs when saliva containing rabies virus is introduced into an opening in the skin by a bite or a scratch of a rabid animal. Transmission can also occur through contamination of mucous membranes or organ transplant. Since 2003, 34 cases of human rabies have been diagnosed across the US.
In 2013, 937 - or 8 percent - of 12,007 animal specimens sent for examination in Texas tested positive for rabies. This accounted for a 37 percent increase in cases from the 683 cases confirmed in 2012. Bats were the primary source of positive cases reported in 2013, followed by skunks and raccoons.
In 2014, Bandera County has had positive rabies cases in a bat, skunk and raccoon. In 2013, there were 23 positive rabid cats, 16 dogs, 13 bovine, seven horses and two goats across the state.
County residents should be aware that feeding domestic small animals outside enclosures will attract wildlife and feral cats, which increases the potential of exposure to rabid animals and other diseases. Since this county is still experiencing a long-term drought, exposure to wildlife searching for food has increased.
Any bite or scratch by a wild or domestic animal should be reported to health officials; city or county animal control; school nurse; Dr. Mark Richardson, rabies control officer for the City of Bandera; or Dr. Conrad Nightingale, rabies control officer for Bandera County.
Any animal that bites a person must be examined by a veterinarian within 24 hours or as soon as possible and a bite report submitted by the appropriate authorities to one of the rabies control officers. This is required for all animals whether currently vaccinated or not.