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Take rabies very seriously

Suffolk experienced a reported case of rabies this week, when a dog tangled with a rabid skunk in the Birch Lane area of Suffolk.

Fortunately the dog had been vaccinated against rabies, which means that it faces a 45-day observation and containment period, instead of euthanasia, the only option available to pet owners whose animals are bitten or scratched by other animals that are determined to be rabies carriers.

With so much at stake, one wonders why any pet owner would not keep his or her pets’ rabies vaccinations current. Yet we know there are many who try to slide by without doing the right thing for their animals. For any dog or cat with even a remote chance of getting outside, failing to get the animal vaccinated is a life-and-death gamble.

For humans who come into contact with rabid animals, the results of postponing medical treatment can be fatal. “An animal exposure is a serious medical event, for which prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical,” Dr. Christopher Wilson, health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, stated last week.

“Rabies is highly preventable if vaccine is given early and as recommended. Unfortunately, without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure and the disease is fatal in almost 100 percent of cases.”

Wilson offered the following recommendations for people to take to protect their pets and families from rabies:

  • Seek medical treatment promptly for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.
  • Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs.
  • Ensure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. State law requires all dogs and cats more than 4 months old to be vaccinated.
  • Confine your pets to your property.
  • Securely seal garbage containers with lids.
  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact the Suffolk Animal Control at 514-7855 or the Suffolk Health Department at 514-4751.