Tennessee cases up nine percent over previous year, officials say
April is rabies vaccination month for Putnam County. The Putnam County Health Department in cooperation with local veterinarians is sponsoring a Rabies Clinic. "All dogs three months and older and all cats six months and older must have a current rabies vaccination," said Joe Ferguson, Environmental Specialist at the Health Department. "Actually cats can get vaccinated as early as three months of age, but the law mandates that theyíre vaccinated for rabies at six months of age."
Rabies is a fatal disease spread by contact with the saliva of an infected animal such as a cat, dog, bat, skunk, raccoon or fox. To a much lesser extent horses and cattle can be infected with this virus. Bats and skunks are the natural carriers of rabies in Tennessee but can pass the virus on to other animals and humans. The virus, which attacks the central nervous system, develops into symptoms such as excitement, aggressiveness and confusion occurring from 10 to one year after exposure.
However, symptoms usually appear two to eight weeks after being bitten by a rabid animal. Paralysis and death will follow once symptoms begin since the disease is not treatable and is always fatal.
In 2000, there were 107 cases of animal rabies reported in Tennessee. Eighty-two percent of these were found in skunks and the remaining cases were found in bats, dogs and foxes. "In Tennessee and elsewhere in the United States, the number of rabies cases in domestic animals has declined dramatically due to mandatory vaccination laws for dogs and cats," said Ferguson. However, the total number of rabies cases in Tennessee has increased by almost nine percent over the previous year. This is a very good reason not to become lax regarding rabies.
Rabies among the wildlife population puts our domestic animals and thus, humans, at risk for contracting the disease. "Thatís why a vaccination program is so important," Ferguson added. "It not only protects our pets from rabies, but it also protects their owners and the public."
For more information about the Putnam County Health Departmentís Rabies Clinic, call Joe Ferguson or Jimmy E. Ashburn, Environmental Specialists at 528-2531, #242 or #243 or contact your veterinarian to schedule a vaccination for your pet.
To give your children more information about the importance of rabies vaccinations and to help them learn why they should avoid unfamiliar animals, visit the State Health Departmentís website at http://www.state.tn.us/health/kids.