Prevent rabies from spreading

Published 11:49am Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The rabies virus may be spreading throughout Shelby County, with 21 cases reported in the county and surrounding areas since January.

The cases are largely in raccoons, but a domestic dog tested positive for the rabies virus. One cat and one red fox made up two of the other 20 cases, with the rest being raccoons.

With rabies more prevalent than usual in the area, our readers should know and recognize possible signs of rabies.

— Animals with rabies sometimes act in strange ways, such as walking in circles, sitting on porches for hours without moving, falling over while walking and so on.

— Rabid animals tend to salivate excessively.

— Rabid animals often exhibit ferocious behavior.

Readers should remember, however, that rabies can be present in an animal without any of these symptoms presenting.

Pet owners should be certain to have their pets — cats and dogs — vaccinated. Today, 8 percent of all rabies cases reported in the United States occur in domestic animals, so vaccinations are essential to keeping pets healthy.

Residents should also help prevent the spread of rabies by reporting bites or animals acting strangely and not relocating wild animals. When raccoons are relocated, they tend to try to return to their original territory, putting them in the path of other animals. Rabid raccoons could easily infect other animals while trying to return home.

If you decide to shoot an animal you suspect of having rabies, do not shoot the animal in the head. That prevents authorities from testing the animal for rabies. Instead, try to shoot the animal in the lungs.

Rabies is typically transferred to humans through animal bites, but it’s possible for humans to contract rabies through animal scratches if the animal has saliva on its paws.

If you’ve been bitten or scratched by an animal you suspect may have rabies, you should call the rabies hotline at 1-888-RABIES4 or (334) 844-5670. You should also call the hotline to report possible rabid animals.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.

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