Rabies still around in county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Six new cases of rabies have been reported in Shelby County since the beginning of the year.

The latest case of rabies came out of Vincent last week in a bat that was found near a pond.

Dr. Becky Senicz was the first specialist to examine the animal after one of her clients found it and brought it to her office.

&uot;She noticed the bat behaving oddly and was able to pick it up in a box,&uot; Senicz said.

Senicz sent the bat to the Shelby County Health Department for further examinations. Tests on the bat came back positive for rabies.

All of the rabies cases in the county this year have been found in wildlife, but Senicz said all animals in the county are at risk.

&uot;Most humans know not to go near animals that are infected with a disease like rabies, but animals don’t,&uot; she said. &uot;People’s pets will pick infected animals up and if they are not vaccinated it can be very dangerous.&uot;

Dr. James Green, deputy rabies officer for Shelby County and head of the Vaccination Verification Program, acknowledged that even though the cases this year have been spread across the area, it is a problem for the entire county.

&uot;Rabies has always been a very serious public health problem,&uot; Dr. Green said. &uot;This is real and it can affect anyone.&uot;

The Rabies Vaccination Verification program has an inspector go door-to-door to check if residents of Shelby County have all pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines or jail time.

While rabies is most commonly found in bats, raccoons and other wildlife, Green said pets such as dogs and cats are at risk as well and their close proximity to humans makes them an even bigger threat to Shelby County residents.

June 5-11 is National Rabies Awareness Week and Green said it is important for people to understand the seriousness of the disease.

&uot;We need to keep people tuned in to this problem,&uot; he said. &uot;It can affect a lot of people very quickly.&uot;

Green said that the verification program has been going

well in its first few months but only 40 percent of people in Shelby County have complied so far with the new rabies shot requirements.

&uot;We will start having preliminary court hearings on June 17 for people who have failed to comply with the regulations,&uot; he said.

While most cases will result in a fine for the owner, severe violations of the new law could result in jail time for the offenders, Green said.

In response to Rabies Awareness Week, Shelby County will host a public rabies clinic at Orr Park in Montevallo this Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon.

Green said anyone needing more information can call 669-2940.

Senicz advised residents of Shelby County to be cautious when dealing with animals that are acting abnormally.

&uot;Call animal control and let professionals handle the animal,&uot; she said. &uot;If you see an animal acting strangely just stay away from it and report it immediately.&uot;

– Brandon Gresha