Rabies cases rise; extra precautions urged

The Denton County Health Department has observed a high number of positive rabies cases in animals for the year, and reminds the public to take precaution by keeping family pets vaccinated against rabies, and by avoiding wild animals.

Denton County saw 25 positive rabies cases in animals in 2011, and has had 9 cases reported this year. Rabies reports statewide were higher than usual last year, particularly in the North Texas and Central Texas regions.

Skunks and bats are the most common carriers of rabies, but family pets are at a greater risk of being exposed and passing the virus to humans, due to the increase. People can contract rabies from an animal bite or scratch, or if an animal’s saliva comes into contact with an open wound, or the eyes, mouth, or nose. 

Health Department officials said that the most effective ways to prevent rabies exposure are:

·         Avoid contact with wild animals, even if they seem friendly or tame. Do not feed wild animals, and do not keep them as pets.

·         Do not touch sick, injured, or dead animals; report them to an animal control officer.

·         Keep vaccinations updated for all cats, dogs, and ferrets. By law, you must have a veterinarian vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies. Keeping your pets vaccinated protects them, as well as your family.

·         Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. Seek veterinary assistance if your animal is bitten by a wild animal.

·         Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.

·         Consider vaccinating livestock. Animals that have frequent contact with humans (e.g., in petting zoos, fairs) and horses traveling interstate should be currently vaccinated against rabies.

·         Take extra precaution around wild animals that seem tame or friendly, or typically-nocturnal animals (skunks, bats, raccoons, etc.) that you see during the day; these are signs that the animal may be rabid, and residents should report them to animal control.

If you have been bitten, quickly wash the area with soap and water, apply an antiseptic, and immediately contact your health provider to determine if further treatment is needed.

Additional information can be found at www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.


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