Warmer weather means more outdoor activities and that increases the risk of contact with an animal infected with the rabies virus. Incidences of rabies exposure usually start in April and continue rising through the summer months.
Richland Public Health has issed a reminder for all pet owners to make sure their cats and dogs are vaccinated against rabies. Keeping vaccinations up-to-date for all cats and dogs is important not only to keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection for you if a rabid wild animal bites your pet.
To encourage the immunization of dogs and cats, Drs. Henry Akers, Jody Akers and Laurie Hickox will be conducting a free rabies vaccine immunization clinic, Saturday, May 11. The clinic will be held at the Richland County Fairgrounds between 11 AM and 1 PM (more info at www.richlandhealth.org).
“Last year we had 830 contacts [inspections, investigations or consultations] concerning rabies,” said Joe Harrod, Director of Environmental Health at Richland Public Health. That number was a 23% increase over the previous year. “Dogs are the most frequent investigation calls, but we have more risk factors associated with feral cats and wild animals like bats and skunks.”
Harrod added that everyone should be cautious around stray dogs and cats as they may be unvaccinated and could be infected by the disease. No one should ever approach a wild animal, especially one that is acting in a strange manner.
“Parents should take particular precautions by teaching their children, especially their toddlers, not to approach strange dogs, cats, or other animals,” Harrod said. “Children are the most frequent victims of animal bites. Some wild animals may look cute but don’t take the risk of being exposed to rabies or infection by being bitten or scratched.”
If you or your child becomes a bite victim, treat the wounds with soap and water. Professional medical advice should be sought immediately to evaluate the risk of rabies or other infections. All bites or possible exposure must be reported to Richland Public Health (419-774-4500).
For further information, and details on the free rabies vaccine clinic on May 11, contact the Environmental Health Division at Richland Public Health by calling 419-774-4520. Additional information about rabies is also available at www.richlandhealth.org (search “Rabies”) and the Center for Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/