County records its second case of rabies
Editor's note: The printed version of this article misstated a quote from veterinarian Dr. Kameron Worley. Rabies is not treatable, but is preventable, Worley said. The version below includes the corrected quotation. CCN apologizes for the error.
CARROLL COUNTY -- Health officials are warning area residents to be on guard this week, after a skunk killed in Carroll County tested positive for rabies.
Sue Weinstein, public health veterinarian with the Arkansas Department of Health, said the skunk was the second confirmed case of the disease in the county this year.
Weinstein said residents should exercise caution when dealing with wild animals and protect their livestock and pets by having them vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian.
"By doing that, they protect themselves," Weinstein said.
Humans are rarely infected with rabies in the United States -- with the last confirmed case in 2004.
However, health officials say those who do contract the disease usually pick it up from pets, rather than directly from the wild.
State law requires all domesticated cats and dogs over four months of age be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian.
However, Weinstein said pet owners often disregard this requirement. Kameron Worley, a veterinarian at the Berryville Veterinary Clinic, agreed.
"There are way too many unvaccinated animals in our area," Worley said. "It's a preventable disease ... (but) it's one of those things people think will never happen to them."
Vaccination is relatively inexpensive. Worley said prices differed depending on the veterinarian, but that most charged from $15 to $20 -- a small fee, officials say, that could potentially save a life.
Rabies, a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord, is spread when saliva contacts an open wound or the lining of the mouth, eyes, or nose.
"The disease, if untreated, is virtually 100 percent fatal," Weinstein said. "(It) is, in fact, considered one of the world's most fatal infections."
According to the Health Department, skunks are the most common carriers of the disease in Arkansas, followed by bats.
Last year, there were 131 confirmed cases of rabies in the state -- none in Carroll County. The vast majority of animals infected, 101 of them, were skunks -- though cats, dogs, cattle, and one horse were also among the victims.
Those numbers made last year an unusually infectious one, according to figures maintained by the Health Department. For the 15 years leading up to 2012, an average of 46 animals tested positive for the disease annually.
This year is shaping up to again beat that average -- with 65 cases confirmed as of April 11.
According to Weinstein, people can protect their animals -- and themselves -- from becoming one of these statistics by observing the following tips:
* Tell children to steer clear of wild animals or strange pets.
* For those who feed their pets outdoors, retrieve the food 30 minutes after putting it out, to avoid attracting wildlife.
* Confine your pets.
* Do not attempt to domesticate wild animals.
* Stay away from odd-acting animals and report suspicious creatures to the animal control department or law enforcement.
* Skunks or bats that are active during daylight are one red flag.
* If you are bitten by an animal, seek immediate medical attention.
* If you kill a wild animal you believe to be rabid, keep the head intact. In order to test for rabies, and prevent the further spread of the disease, health officials must test tissue samples from the brain.
For more information about rabies and disease prevention, contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Office, at 870-423-2958, or visit the Health Department website at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.