Summit County Animal Control urges pet vaccinations to prevent rabies
In recognition of World Rabies Day, Sept. 28, the Summit County Animal Control and Shelter is urging pet owners to ensure their animals’ vaccinations are up to date to prevent the spread of the fatal disease. And all Summit County residents and visitors are encouraged to avoid physical contact with wildlife and unfamiliar animals.
“Rabies is a global problem that we can all play a role in defeating locally,” Animal Control director Lesley Hall said in a news release. “By taking a few simple preventive measures and common-sense precautions, we can prevent the spread of rabies in our own community and the world beyond.”
World Rabies Day is a global day of awareness and activism aimed at reducing rabies transmission. The campaign is led by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, with partner organizations including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the World Health Organization.
Rabies is a viral disease found in the saliva of infected mammals, most often spread from one animal to another by a bite. In Colorado, skunks and bats are the most common carriers of rabies, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment. The department notes that a few rabid foxes and raccoons have also been identified in the state. In Summit County, a bat tested positive for rabies in the mid-1990s, following a collision with a human.
The rabies virus travels from the site of a bite or scratch along the nerves to the brain, where it multiplies and causes inflammation. Symptoms of rabies include fever, headache, trouble swallowing, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, abnormal behavior, insomnia and delirium. Once a person exhibits signs of the disease, it is almost always fatal, according to the CDC. However, post-exposure prophylaxis is nearly 100 percent successful in stopping the virus if it’s administered shortly after a bite or scratch or other exposure to an infected animal.
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control estimates that 69,000 people die from rabies each year, mostly in African and Asian countries. The CDC reports that the annual number of human deaths attributed to rabies in the United States is about one to two, mainly attributed to wild animals. Human deaths occur in people who do not seek medical assistance after exposure.
Rabies vaccinations are required for cats, dogs and ferrets in the state of Colorado. Summit County’s pet licensing program helps to enforce the rabies vaccination requirement, since proof of a pet’s current rabies vaccination must be provided in order to purchase a license.
“Summit County is not a rabies endemic area, but it’s important to realize that our pet vaccination requirement is the reason why. Vaccinated dogs and cats will not contract rabies from wild animals, and are therefore unable to spread the virus to humans,” Hall said in the news release.
If you are bitten by a domestic animal, you should wash the wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes. If possible, get information on the animal’s owner and report the bite to Summit County Animal Control so that officials can verify rabies vaccination of the animal.
Likewise, if you are bitten by a wild animal, wash the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes. Contact Animal Control and try to safely capture the animal so that it can be tested for rabies. If you are unable to capture the wild animal, contact your health care provider to discuss the potential need for post-exposure rabies prophylaxis. Never pick up or touch a dead animal, as it may have rabies in its saliva or nervous tissue.
If you find that your pet has been exposed to a wild animal, carefully capture or contain the wild animal and contact Animal Control so that officials can test it.
“It is extremely important that you vaccinate your pets against rabies, because unlike in people, post-exposure rabies prophylaxis is not effective in animals,” Hall said. “Rabies is a deadly but preventable disease. So we’re encouraging all dog, cat and ferret owners in Summit County to take an active part in World Rabies Day by ensuring their pets’ rabies vaccinations are current.”
For more information about World Rabies Day, visit http://www.cdc.gov/worldrabiesday, or call Summit County Animal Control at (970) 668-3230.
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