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Tomball stray tests positive for rabies, local vets urge pet owners to vaccinate

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: This is a dog found in Harris County that was later determined to be rabid. Law enforcement authorities continue their search for anyone who may have come into contact with this dog.

On Jan. 23, authorities with the Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) and Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) received confirmation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that a stray dog in the Tomball area - ZIP code 77377 - had tested positive for rabies. This was the first positive rabies confirmation in that area of 2015.
Closer to home, 10 animals had tested positive for rabies cases in Kerr County in 2014. The last case of the year was confirmed in December after a pet cat that died at a local veterinarian's office tested positive for the virus. The cat's owners had taken their pet to the vet after it became ill. The cat had apparently been gone from the home for several days and was exposed to the virus at that time.
As a result of the diagnosis, four people had to be treated for exposure to the disease. An 11th case of rabies has been reported near the county line of Kerr and Kendall counties.
In 2014, Bandera County had three positive rabies cases in a bat, skunk and raccoon. "In my 40 years as a veterinarian, I have never seen three cases of rabies in one year," said Conrad Nightingale, DVM, who also serves as Bandera County Rabies Control Officer.
The stray dog in Harris County showed no signs of illness after he was picked up and during monitoring by the City of Houston BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions. The dog was a brown-black Labrador Retriever mix, approximately 1 year old. HCPHES and HDHHS want to be sure any person who may have had direct physical contact with the dog between the dates of Jan. 4-10, is evaluated for potential risk of rabies infection.
It is recommended that anyone who was bitten or had contact with the saliva of the dog, or knows of someone who had contact with the dog, call HCPHES Veterinary Public Health (VPH) at 281-999-3191 as soon as possible.
HCPHES will:
• Provide rabies information to residents in the area
• Conduct additional surveillance activities
• Provide information to healthcare providers and veterinarians
• Work closely with local, state, and federal partners to ensure the public's health and well-being
Rabies is a serious infection that can be transmitted to a person by contact with infected saliva through a bite or contact with mucous membranes, i.e., eyes, nose and mouth.
Pet owners are urged to observe these important precautions:
• Maintain current rabies vaccinations on all dogs and cats 4 months of age and older.
• Confine all pets or keep them on a leash.
• Avoid contact with sick or injured animals - although relevant to all people, this is especially true for children
• Avoid stray or wild animals, including skunks and bats.
• Report all animal bites or scratches that break the skin and any physical contact with bats - with or without a bite - to your area animal control agency. In Bandera County, call Nightingale at 830-796-3787. For the City of Bandera, call Mark Richardson, DMV, at 830-796-3003.
It's one thing when rabies is detected in wild animals," said Dr. Mary Green, a veterinarian who practices at the Bandera Veterinarian Clinic, "but when the virus is being found in the companion animals, we have to worry."
She advised all pet owners to vaccinate their animals against rabies as required by law.