Rabies confirmed in Pelham, North Shelby

PELHAM – The Department of Public Health has confirmed two separate cases of rabies in Shelby County, in the areas of Oak Mountain High School and Oak Mountain State Park.

According to Lacey Bacchus, marketing director with Southern Veterinary Partners, a cat was bitten by a raccoon near Oak Mountain High School and a dog bit a raccoon in the residential area near Oak Mountain State Park. The cat and the raccoon both tested positive for rabies.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that infects the brain and spinal cord of mammals. The virus is spread from exposure to saliva or nervous tissue from an infected animal, usually through a bite. Scratches or saliva contact with a mucous membrane are also considered as exposure risks. Rabies is preventable if proper treatment is given before symptoms occur, but is fatal once symptoms are present.

Dr. Jay Price, veterinarian at Oak View Animal Hospital in Pelham, said the best way to protect pets is to get them vaccinated. Price said vaccines are almost 100 percent effective.

Rabies vaccinations are required by state law for all pets. He said it’s equally important to make sure that pets are up to date on their rabies vaccine as well as all other vaccines.

If a person believes they may have been exposed to rabies, they should immediately go to the emergency room to receive a post-exposure vaccination, Price said. If a human tests positive for rabies, the case will be reported to the county health department.

“If they actually start showing signs of rabies, chances of survival are very slim,” Price said. “I think there have only been one or two documented cases of people surviving after contracting rabies.”

To discourage wildlife from coming into residential areas, pet owners are advised to not store pet food outdoors and to keep bowls inside when they’re not in use.

“When hiking in Oak Mountain State Park, pet owners should always have their pets on a leash,” Price said. “If you’re approached by an aggressive animal, don’t interact with it at all. If a wild animal looks sick, don’t try to help it – it’s sick for a reason. People should also be more aware of keeping their pets outside.”