Take rabies seriously

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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At a time when we’re already dealing with one life-altering disease, let’s not add more to the list.

It’s a common occurrence every spring and summer for a handful of wild animals in Western Tidewater to test positive for rabies after coming into contact with humans, domesticated animals or livestock, but that doesn’t make it any less disconcerting for the people who live nearby.

Fortunately, rabies is not quite as virulent as COVID-19, which is at the top of everyone’s minds right now. Also fortunately, it has been around a lot longer than COVID-19, and we know more about how to prevent it.

However, it is nearly 100% fatal in humans after they begin to show symptoms, and it is also fatal in dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated. It is still a public health threat that should be taken seriously.

Exposure of humans to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as with an animal bite. An animal exposure is a serious medical event, for which prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical.

Rabies is highly preventable if the vaccine is given early and as recommended. Follow these tips to prevent exposure in yourself, your loved ones and your pets:

• If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact Animal Control in Franklin at 757-562-8605, or after hours and weekends via the police’s non-emergency number at 757-562-8575.

In Southampton County, call via the Sheriff’s Office at 757-653-2100. You can also contact Franklin Health Department at 757-562-6109, or the Southampton County Health Department at 757-653-3040.

• Seek medical treatment promptly for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.

•Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs.

• Ensure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. Consult your veterinarian, animal control or the health department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.

• Confine your pets to your property.

• Securely seal garbage containers with lids.

• State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of 4 months to be vaccinated against rabies.

For more information on rabies, contact the aforementioned departments, or visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/rabies/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/rabies.