Howell County Health Department issues warning of upcoming rabies season

Health Department asks, don’t shoot animals suspected of having rabies in the head
We are entering the time of year when more people are bitten and otherwise injured by animals as a result of increased outdoor activities. One risk of being bitten by animals such as skunks, bats, and stray dogs and cats is that of developing rabies. Human rabies cases in the United States are not as common as they once were, thanks to modern vaccinations for dogs and cats, improved public health and animal control practices, and a more effective series of anti-rabies shots for persons bitten. However, the risk of rabies remains a potential health threat in our community, and persons bitten by potentially rabid animal should seek medical evaluation immediately.
According to Chris Gilliam, Administrator of the Howell County Health Department, anyone who has been bitten by an animal, particularly a stray dog or cat or a wild animal, should wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes. If possible, and without further injury, try to capture or confine the biting animal so that it can be quarantined or tested for rabies (depending on the species of animal). If the animal is destroyed, avoid damaging the head since the brain is the only specimen that can be tested for the presence of the rabies virus. Persons should contact their physician to see if medical care (antibiotics, tetanus booster, etc.) is needed, and to have a rabies risk assessment made. They should also contact their local public health agency to seek assistance in obtaining proper disposition of the biting animal.
Rabies is a disease of mammals and is transmitted primarily through bites. Over 90% of reported cases in the United States are wild animals commonly seen in neighborhoods and backyards, such as bats and skunks. Vaccinated pets provide a barrier between those animals and families, and public health experts want pet owners to know that by protecting their pets they are also protecting their loved ones.  
Following a potential exposure to rabies, there is normally a widow of opportunity (usually measured in days) during which the patient can receive a series of shots to keep him/her from developing rabies. The current series of shotes is very effective if given soon after the exposure, and is fewer in number with far less side effects than the previous anti-rabies regimen. However, the current series is not without some discomfort and risk and can be expensive. The shots are not effective once symptoms develop. Gilliam ends by encouraging all pet owners within the county to keep up the rabies vaccinations on their pets.
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