By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Tucker County Animal Shelter recently collaborated with veterinarian Dr. Jessy Vandevender with Hart for Animals, Inc. to bring an additional rabies and vaccine clinic to the area. Typically, these clinics take place twice a year, in the spring and fall, but in light of recent rabies confirmations in the area, Animal Shelter Director Bailey Falls felt it was important to offer a low cost option to protect pets and humans alike.
“In December, there was a raccoon in Leadmine that attacked and bit two dogs,” stated Falls. “Thankfully, both dogs were vaccinated and survived. In Morgantown recently there was also a kitten, who tested positive for rabies, that bit three veterinary employees,” she added.
Owner of one of the dog is Kathy Helmick who recalled the night of the event. She said she knew something was off, “Due to the behavior of the coon, by chasing Molly (her dog) after my screams the coon let go. I managed to get the dog, and the coon chased us on the porch. Rick heard the commotion and came out of the house and shot the coon as it was coming on the porch. The next morning I called the Tucker County Health Department and was told to bring the coon to them. They sent it to be tested the next day and we received word that it was rabid.” Helmick continued, “Molly went to the vet and was treated with a rabies booster, antibiotics, and something for pain. Please keep your animals’ shots up to date. We still have her today because of that.”
Dr. Vandevender said “Your pets need a booster in one year after their first vaccine, and then it’s every three years after that.” If you suspect your pet has been bitten by an animal with rabies, “They should contact their veterinarian immediately. If the animal that bit their pet is dead, it can be submitted for rabies testing. The only way to test for rabies is post-mortem testing on the brain tissue. They can also contact animal control if the animal is still alive and in the area.” She further explained that in order to test the animal, it is vital the animal not sustain brain damage, therefore if the animal is disposed of, it should be done so to minimize head trauma if at all possible. Of course, human and pet safety is most important, so each incident should be taken care of accordingly.
So what should you look for as signs of rabies in domesticated animals or wildlife? According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), initial symptoms may include lethargy, fever, vomiting, or anorexia within the early stages. Within a few days, signs progress to include cerebral dysfunction, cranial nerve dysfunction, ataxia, weakness, paralysis, seizures, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, aggression, and/or self mutilation. Unfortunately, the outcome of this for animals is almost always fatal.
If a human is bitten by an animal suspected of rabies, it is detrimental to seek medical attention immediately. The CDC informs that after being bitten, the virus undergoes an “incubation period” where it must travel through the body to the brain prior to signs being evident. The first symptoms may appear flu-like, with weakness, fever, and aches that may last a few days. There may be itching or discomfort at the bite site, followed by confusion, agitation, or anxiety. Further disease progression includes signs of delirium, changes in behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia, and insomnia.
At the recent clinic held at Tucker Valley School and the Thomas VFD, over 200 rabies vaccines were administered in conjunction with a multitude of other routine vaccinations. As a result of the overwhelming turnout, Dr. Vandevender ran out of rabbies vaccines. To accommodate those still wishing to take advantage of the clinic, another date has been set for Saturday, February 8 at the Thomas VFD from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. “We are providing these winter clinics to help serve the community and provide low cost vaccine clinics to help keep the animals and the people of the community safe,” stated Falls.