Rabies on the Rise

The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Rabies on the Rise

Posted 2012-06-01T16:24:00Z  by  Stephanie Mallory

Rabies on the Rise

Is rabies on the rise in the U.S.? According to a recent article posted in Dog Daily, data indicates that the number of rabies cases in the wild is increasing. Recent news for states such as Texas, South Dakota and Nebraska claims the same, but it's the stories of rabid wild animals attacking people and pets that are causing some to sit up and take notice.

Two weeks ago, a Pennsylvania man attending a bonfire was bitten by a rabid fox that he and his friends mistook for a stray cat. How an entire group of people could mistake a fox for a cat is beyond me, but that's beside the point. After the fox bit the man, some of the party goers chased it down and shot it. Earlier in the month, an Arizona man, Brandon Arnold, and his lab-pitbull mix dog, Apollo, survived an attack by a rabid mountain lion while camping. In true hero form, Arnold picked up a skillet he and his camping buddies had used for breakfast and knocked the lion unconscious. A friend then fired a few shots to make sure the mountain lion was dead. Luckily, the dog was up to date on its rabies shots. Save for a few scratches, Apollo should be fine. A Georgia woman was recently bitten by a rabid fox as she walked her dog. Later that same morning, the victim's mother was terrorized by an aggressive fox, which she shot and killed and then reported the incident to Animal Control.

Despite these recent attacks, many assume that human exposure to rabies is extremely rare. But according to the article, Burden of Rabies, posted by the Center for Disease Control, each year in the U.S. approximately 40,000 people receive a rabies prevention treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) due to a potential exposure to rabies.

Although most people are exposed to rabies through close contact with domestic animals, such as cats or dogs, more than 90% of all rabid animals reported to CDC each year occur in wildlife. This puts hunters at greater risk for exposure as demonstrated by a Pennsylvania hunter who was exposed to rabies when he shot and field dressed a rabid deer earlier this year. The hunter saw the deer standing in a creek, straining and growling. Knowing the behavior was odd, the hunter contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission after he shot the deer because he was concerned that the deer would be unsafe to eat. Brain samples from the deer came back positive for rabies.

Although rabid deer are extremely rare, any mammal is at risk for contracting rabies, especially raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

It might take years for the virus to reach the animal's brain. Only then does it begin to replicate and spread throughout the body. The first place it goes is to the salivary glands, which is why rabies can be easily transmitted by a bite or from saliva entering a scratch or cut on another animal or human. For this reason, it is important that hunters and trappers wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing any mammal.

The terrifying truth about rabies is that once a person develops symptoms, rabies is almost always fatal. For that reason, if there is any chance at all that you've been exposed to rabies through a scratch or bite inflicted by a wild or domestic animal, you should seek immediate medical treatment. Rabies shots are 100 percent effective if taken before the symptoms of rabies begin.

Have any of you come in contact with or see a rabid animal? Ever have to get rabies treatment?