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Veterinarians to offer discount vaccinations for rabies in Morgan

By Tiffeny Hurtado
thurtado@decaturdaily.com · 340-2440

Morgan County veterinarians will visit sites throughout the county Saturday to offer $10 discount rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs. Pets must be at least 3 months old.

Alabama law requires owners and keepers of cats and dogs to get the vaccination every year.

“There is a prevalence of rabies in raccoons and bats in Alabama,” said veterinarian Michael Dishman, who owns Dishman Animal Clinic.

Last year, veterinarians inoculated 2,500 pets in Morgan County, and Dishman hopes that more will be inoculated this year.

Morgan County has not had a case this year, but it is common to have at least one case reported each year.

He says the likelihood of a pet contracting rabies is lower than it used to be because vaccinations are containing spread of the disease. Also, more people live in urban areas where they and their pets are less likely to be exposed to wild animals carrying the disease.

Dishman said getting the inoculation for household pets is a good idea to prevent them from being infected and possibly infecting their human owners. Rabies is a viral disease that affects mammals, and it is most commonly contracted through a bite from a rabid animal.

If a owner is bitten by his pet, the animal will be put under rabies observation in a veterinarian’s care for 10 days, and then after that time, the animal will be given the vaccine.

“If you’re bitten by your dog or cat, you need to see your physician, and they will probably put you on antibiotics and give you an updated tetanus shot,” said Dr. Kelly Griffith of Dishman Animal Clinic.

People who are bitten by animals that can’t be observed or tested, and that have not been vaccinated, are treated differently. They are given a dose of rabies immune globulin and the first dose of rabies vaccine as soon as possible following the bite.

These people will receive four more doses of rabies vaccine over 28 days, according to the MayoClinic.com.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a majority of rabies cases that are reported every year are wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, and only 10 percent of the cases affect domestic animals like cats, dogs and cattle.

Once an animal is infected, the virus begins attacking the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy, or the swelling of the brain, and early symptoms of the disease in humans are fever, headache and general malaise.

As the virus progresses, symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia, or fear of water, may appear.

Ultimately, the disease ends in death within a few days with the onset of symptoms.

This can be prevented, Dishman says, by pet owners getting their cats and dogs the annual vaccination.

Rabies infections

The Epidemiology Division of the Alabama Department of Health reports laboratory confirmed rabies:

  • 2007 — 41 cases reported through May 15, including 29 in raccoons.
  • 2006 — 84 cases, including 57 raccoons, or 68 percent, and 17 bats. Morgan County had two confirmations, both in bats.
  • 2005 — 100 cases, including 41 raccoons, 21 bats and 11 foxes. Morgan County had one rabies infection in a bat.

    The department did not report any confirmed rabies cases in humans during the three reporting periods listed.

    Bayne Hughes

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