Rabies cases up in Missouri

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

KENNETT, Mo. -- Missouri has seen an increase in animal rabies cases with 55 cases as of September, which is usually the total for the entire year.

World Rabies Day, which was recognized on Sept. 28, called attention to the rise in cases that has triggered a warning from state health officials. The officials are urging people to vaccinate pets and seek medical treatment for any animal bite, according to Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

"We are seeing more cases of rabies than we normally do, with 55 cases so fare this year, more than the total for an entire year in Missouri," Dr. Howard Pue, Missouri's state public health veterinarian said. "Furthermore, we are seeing a higher-than-normal percentage of rabid skunks, with 35 percent testing positive for rabies this year."

DHSS noted that rabies is a disease of mammals and is transmitted primarily through bites. Nationwide, more than 90 percent of reported rabies cases involve wild animals. But many of these animals, such as bats, skunks and foxes, are common in neighborhoods and backyards.

In Missouri, rabies is most often seen in bats and skunks, but also occasionally in farm animals and pets, according to DHSS. Because many pets have contact with wild animals and with people, protecting pets through vaccination also protects people.

Dr. Everett Mobley, a Kennett veterinarian, noted that he has not seen the increase in rabies in the immediate area, although he encourages all pets to be vaccinated properly.

Mobley added that individuals should be aware that wild animals, especially skunks in our area, can have rabies.

"Animals with rabies will act out of character like a skunk, which is usually nocturnal and strays from people, being in the middle of town during the day," Mobley said.

In most cases, when individuals are bitten by an animal it is a good procedure to have the animal under surveillance for ten days, according to Mobley. This is ample time to evaluate the animal for the virus.

Another Kennett veterinarian, William Embry, noted that he has also not seen an increase in the immediate area.

Embry noted that the amount of vaccinations completed by the veterinarians in Kennett and the surrounding areas has helped to keep the number of cases of rabies at a minimum. He added that the vaccination should be continued to keep the virus from being transferred to humans.

The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc., noted that although the United States has been declared free of canine rabies virus variant transmission, multiple viral variants are maintained in wild mammal populations, and there is always a risk of reintroduction of canine rabies. The association added that all mammals are believe to be susceptible to the disease.

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