07/20/06 — 7 rabies cases reported in Wayne

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7 rabies cases reported in Wayne

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on July 20, 2006 1:51 PM

The Wayne County Animal Shelter has already reported seven cases of rabies this year, and more could be coming this summer.

Chief Animal Control Officer Jerry Pate said even though rabies cases are reported year-round, his office receives more calls during the summer months.

"I think we get more calls during this time of year because more people are outside and notice the behavior of the animals around them," Pate said.

Rabies can be transmitted by scratches, bites or even a rabid animal's saliva, said Jim Roosen, director of the Wayne County Health Department.

When a domestic animal or person is bitten by an infected animal, state law requires that animal be quarantined at a local animal shelter, Pate said.

If a domestic animal is exposed to rabies but has had its most recent vaccinations, the animal will receive a booster shot by animal control officers. Then, the animal is quarantined for 10 days and will be closely watched for the following 45 days, Pate said.

Without the current vaccinations, the animal would be quarantined for six months at the owner's expense or be euthanized, he said.

Rabies symptoms in domestic animals vary, but owners and residents should look out for dogs and cats that display strange behavior, whether the animal is acting depressed, scared or aggressive.

Another symptom includes the animal "walking wobbly or drunkenly," said Dr. Brian Stuber of the Berkeley Veterinary Clinic in Goldsboro.

Although it is not as common as other symptoms, animals can also foam at the mouth. Some animals do this because the nerves that control the animal's ability to swallow are impaired from the virus, Dr. Stuber said.

If a domestic animal shows any of these symptoms, Dr. Stuber said it is important for the owner to contact the local animal control office.

"The strange thing about rabies is that an animal could be healthy at one point and show symptoms within a week and die," Dr. Stuber said.

The virus is just as deadly for humans. Any person who believes they might have been exposed to rabies should seek immediate medical attention, Roosen said. Rabies is 99 percent fatal to humans who go untreated, he added.

After a person has been exposed, the virus can lay dormant for months, or even years, before symptoms are evident. The kinds of symptoms depends on which part of the body came into contact with a rabid animal's saliva, Roosen said, since the virus directly affects a person's nervous system.

Some symptoms in humans include excitability, apprehension, headache, fever, sensory changes, problems with swallowing and convulsions, Roosen said.

If the virus is detected early enough, that person must undergo medical treatment, which consists of five injections over three weeks, Roosen said.

Authorities urge pet owners to keep their animals vaccinated against rabies. To learn more about rabies or to report a suspicious animal, call the Wayne County Animal Shelter at 731-1439.