09/15/13 — Rabies, flu shots focus of Board of Health

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Rabies, flu shots focus of Board of Health

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 15, 2013 1:50 AM

The lack of a quorum prevented the Wayne County Board of Health from voting on any items Wednesday, but it did not stop those in attendance from discussing the need for pets to be vaccinated against rabies and proposed increases to some flu vaccines.

In the wake of recently reported cases of rabies in Wayne County, board member Osbone Wilder, a veterinarian at Berkeley Veterinary Clinic, stressed the importance of keeping pet vaccinations up to date.

Even if the animal is overdue for the shot by a week, they are out of compliance and if exposed to or bitten by a rabid animal, there are ramifications, he said -- from a hefty incubation period to "very, very expensive" costs if the pet owner has to pay out of pocket.

Rabies, a viral infection that affects the body's central nervous system, can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected animal and can be fatal for both the animal and humans if left untreated. Animals typically connected with rabies include raccoons, bats and dogs. The vast majority of cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.

Statewide laws require the vaccination of cats, dogs and ferrets and offers guidelines for responding to animal bites and potential exposure to the rabies virus.

The recent cases locally have involved dogs and kittens, which have implications for pet owners, board members said.

"People that have these indoor cats, or they never come in contact with a rabid animal, but then if you have a friend over and they get bitten, it's going to be some time of quarantine," Wilder said.

When the test comes back positive, there are usually two options -- pay for six months quarantine at a veterinarian's office or have the animal euthanized.

Wilder suggested pet owners be proactive with the preventive measure.

"Vaccinations are out there," he said. "People don't think about if it they're not truly up to date. "

The first one is good for one year, he said, and thereafter, they are required every three years.

"There's a lot of opportunities to get it done," Wilder added, explaining that most veterinary clinics offer the vaccinations for between $15 and $20.

They are also offered in the community at rabies clinics held throughout the year. The Animal Adoption and Education Center is holding one at the "Bark in the Borough Dog Walk" at Waynesborough Park on Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. One-year vaccinations are available for $10.

In anticipation of the upcoming flu season, Administrative Officer Ken Stern proposed the board consider raising immunization rates charged by the Health Department.

"We're looking at our fee structure to see if we need to keep our fees the same. It currently costs of $9.40 per dose, with our $17 administration fee" for the regular flu shot, he said, for a total of $26.40. "Our fee is currently $25."

He recommended the board approve an increase to $27.

The high-dose flu vaccination, given to senior citizens, currently costs the department $44.14, with them charging $40. Stern's recommendation was to raise the charge to $45.

The shingles vaccine is priced at a flat rate of $184, but one dose costs the Health Department $193.77, prompting the request to raise the fee to $200 per vaccine.

On average, the department typically administers about 10 shingles vaccines a year, which are ordered and provided based on patient request, said Josa Raynor-Vaughn, communicable disease program manager.

The Health Department has ordered 1,000 flu vaccines for this year, as compared to 1,500 for the previous year, Ms. Raynor-Vaughn said.

The reduction can be attributed to the fact that there are more options for obtaining the vaccination, Stern said. Years ago, when there were limited supplies available, the Health Department held mass vaccination clinics, he said, recalling "lines wrapped around the building" of residents waiting to get a flu shot.

These days, the supply is more plentiful and in addition to the Health Department, patients have access to the vaccine through physicians' offices, the hospital and drug stores.

Stern said he would send information on the proposed fee changes to board members via email in an attempt to elicit their vote that way.