NEWELL – A dog in Newell has been confirmed to have rabies. This is prompting the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to issue a reminder of the danger of rabies in pets. The animal was tested by ADPH following an examination by a local veterinarian and sample preparation by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Auburn.
The vaccination of pets against rabies is required in Alabama and is considered the best protection for pets and their owners. This particular dog was recently taken in by the family as a stray and had no history of rabies vaccination.
The ADPH is investigating any potential exposure to the animal in order to notify the individuals of the proper treatment to prevent possible human transmission. Dr. Dee W. Jones, state public health veterinarian, reminds the public that it is important for people to aware that rabies still exists in Alabama. He says, “The nature of the risks of human exposure to rabies has dramatically declined over the last 60 years or so, but since the virus is still seen frequently in raccoons, that the risk is still relevant.” According to Dr. Jones, although still pending identification, it is very probable that the dog was infected with a strain of raccoon rabies.
Raccoons are the reservoir for rabies in Alabama. Alabama is currently one of 17 other eastern and southeastern states that participate in the federal efforts to reduce rabies in raccoons by using an oral rabies vaccine. The program is aimed at dramatically reducing the human health risks as well as the costs associated with rabies exposures.
Public health and animal officials predict the program could dramatically change the current prevalence of rabies, not only in Alabama but in other states as well. Dr. Jones comments, “If the success of the ORV program could build on the success that has been seen over the past 60-65 years of vaccinating domestic animals, it would greatly benefit human health and animal health.”
In addition to vaccination, area residents are advised to take the following precautions to avoid possible exposure to rabies:
- Do not allow pets to run loose; confine them within a fenced-in area or with a leash.
- Do not leave uneaten pet food or scraps near your residence.
- Do not illegally feed or keep wildlife as pets.
- Do not go near wildlife or domestic animals that are acting in a strange or unusual manner.
- Caution children not to go near any stray or wild animal, regardless of its behavior.
- Advise children to tell an adult if they are bitten or scratched by any animal.
A person who is bitten or scratched by an animal should wash wounds immediately with mild soap and water, apply first aid, and seek medical attention or contact the county health department immediately.
For more information about rabies and prevention, please contact ADPH (334) 206-5969 or visit alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/rabies.