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2011-03-17

Possible rabid animal sightings up

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC

Since mid-February, Bandera County Sheriff’s Office emergency dispatch has received four calls regarding possible rabid animal sightings.
According to Deputy Sgt. Shane Merritt, BCSO has handled three sick raccoon calls and one sick fox call. Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens handled another sick raccoon call.
Pat Wells, a resident of the Polly Peak area, spotted an apparently sick raccoon in her mother-in-law’s backyard around noon on Thursday, March 10. “He acted like he couldn’t see where he was going,” said Wells. “He moved real slow and would lean to one side and then kind of circle in that direction.”
Wells went out into the yard to remove her mother-in-law’s cat and said the raccoon did not attack either her or the cat. “He seemed like an unstable little blind man,” she said.
Wells called the BCSO to report the animal and an officer arrived promptly and shot it.
He then left the animal body for Wells to dispose of. “We were able to do that, but what if there is an elderly or disabled person who can’t lift the body into a burn barrel or dig a hole?” Wells asked. “There should be a policy on a case-by-case basis to assist anyone who can’t handle the disposal.”
County Rabies Officer Conrad Nightingale, DVM, said he has been hearing a lot of reports of possible rabid animals, but has no positive tests to provide data. “Unless there is human or domestic pet exposure, the county and the state don’t want to foot the bill for running the tests,” said Nightingale. Individuals can pay privately for the lab work if they choose.
Nightingale opined that the sick animals being spotted around the county might be suffering from either distemper or rabies.
Proper disposal &
precautions
Care should be used when disposing of any dead animal. Wear gloves. Use a shovel to pick up the animal. Then bury it as deep as possible to keep other animals from digging it up, or double-bag it and put it in the garbage. To kill the virus, sprinkle the ground and wash the shovel and gloves with a 10 percent solution of bleach in water - nine parts water to one part bleach.
Nightingale said that the virus usually dies after two to three hours after the temperature drops below 94 degrees but he cautioned anyone handling a dead animal to avoid the saliva.
According to the Texas Department of Health, 49 animals from Bandera County were tested for rabies in 2010. Only one, a horse, tested positive.
To decrease the chance of exposure to rabies, Nightingale advises home-owners to “quit feeding the critters outdoors.” Be alert for sick wildlife and remove domestic pets from the vicinity of any wild animal that appears to be sick without putting themselves in danger.
The Texas Department of Health describes rabies as follows: “Rabies is a virus disease of the central nervous system. It can be transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal, or through the saliva of a rabid animal being introduced into a fresh scratch or similar skin break, and rarely by other routes. Saliva in contact with unbroken skin - or even on a scratch wound over 24 hours old, one where a scab has formed-usually will not require anti-rabies treatment. You should definitely see a doctor if you think the animal could be rabid.”
The department advises the immediate destruction of any unvaccinated dogs or cats bitten by a known rabid animal. Or the animal may be vaccinated and placed in strict isolation for 90 days. Vaccinated pets that are bitten should be revaccinated immediately and confined for 45 days.
All warm-blooded animals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. The most commonly infected animals in Texas are skunks, bats, coyotes and foxes.
In Texas, domestic dogs and cats are required to be vaccinated by four months of age and be given a booster one year after the initial vaccination. They can then be vaccinated at one-year or three-year intervals, depending on the type of vaccine used.
Some signs that an animal may be rabid include unusual aggressiveness or tameness, excessive drooling (foaming at the mouth caused by paralysis of throat muscles) and dragging the hind legs or other mobility problems.
The New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation offers this bit of advice which you make take with a grain of salt: “Stay away from any animal that’s acting strangely, and let your neighbors know about its presence in the area. Sometimes your local police will come out and shoot the animal; however, even a sick animal will often wander off by the time outside help can get there. We do not recommend approaching the animal with a baseball bat or other club because that would require close contact. Crazy as this sounds, a vehicle can be used to run over the animal in some instances. The advantage? No contact.”
As someone said, “So that’s how they do it in the Big Apple?”