Health officials raise awareness about rabies

Health officials raising awareness about rabies

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Skunks, coyotes and bats are the top carriers of rabies in Wichita County and can transmit it to both people and pets.

“You don’t hear people talking about rabies and rabies is just as important because it is zoonotic. We can get rabies. We can’t get parvo. We can’t get distemper, panoleukemia, or some of these other viruses that attack cats and dogs,” said Leslie Harrelson, founder and CEO of P.E.T.S.

Health officials remind people that rabies is preventable. You want to have your pets rabies vaccinations kept up to date and avoid contact with wild animals.

“It is 99.99% fatal mainly because by the time that you know that you have rabies it is too late for treatment,” said Lou Kreidler, director of the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District.

“So a little $10-15 shot could be the difference between life and death for your pet,” said Harrelson.

Texas state law says if an animal is exposed to rabies they are required to quarantine. In most cases, it’s for 10 days.

*A press release from the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District*

Wichita Falls, Texas - The City of Wichita Falls Animal Services Center is encouraging all pet owners and citizens to increase their awareness of rabies. An individual who lives on the south side of Wichita Falls, recently found a skunk in their own backyard who was fighting with their three dogs. The skunk was captured and euthanized and then sent for testing. The Health District received the results late Thursday, April 15, that the skunk tested positive for rabies.

Most wild animals are not infected with rabies, but residents should always keep in mind that wild animals, by nature, are unpredictable and can carry disease. Any exposure to wild animals, alive or dead, in particularly, bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes (which are the top five carriers of the virus in Texas) should be avoided. Children and pets should be watched closely while outdoors to ensure that they do not come in contact with or touch wild animals. If a wild animal strays onto your property bring children and pets indoors, alert anyone else who may be in the vicinity and let the animal wander away.

Animal Services urges anyone who observes a wild or domestic animal active during the day appearing sick, fearless, or aggressive, to contact Animal Control immediately at 940-761-7824. Do not attempt to capture or shoot the animal; it cannot be tested if shot in the head. Be aware that rabies can only be transmitted by saliva. Exposure may occur if scratched by an infected animal or whenever saliva enters an open cut or mucous membrane (nose, mouth, eyes).

Rabies is 100% preventable by following a few important guidelines:

  • Ensure all pets: dogs, cats and ferrets, are current on their rabies vaccinations, as required by Texas State Law. Livestock owners are also encouraged to vaccinate horses and other livestock.
  • Don’t let pets roam free.
  • Stay away from all wild animals and unknown dogs and cats.
  • Avoid wild animals-even if they appear friendly.
  • Never coax a wild animal to eat from your hand.
  • If you encounter a bat, do not handle it. Bats have extremely small teeth and you may not realize that you have been bitten.
  • Teach your children to report all bites, scratches and encounters with a wild or unknown animals.

To reduce the risk of exposure to rabies from wildlife, we recommend the following:

  • Don’t feed or water your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals. If you are feeding feral cats feed early in the day and do not leave food out over night as that will attract wild animals as well.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals
  • Wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • Enjoy all wild animals from a distance and teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals – even if they appear friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to city or county animal control officials.

If someone has been bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar or wild animal contact a physician or the Wichita FallsWichita County Public Health District for immediate assistance. Also contact City of Wichita Falls Animal Services at 940-761-7824 to make a report.

Animal Services also discourages pet owners from purchasing or taking “free” animals, especially puppies and kittens, from people trying to sell or give them away on the side of the road or in parking lots. Domesticated animals can be quarantined for a period of time for rabies observation and wildlife will be euthanized and sent to the Department of State Health Services for rabies testing.

Any concerns with possible contact with a potential rabies exposure can be directed to Animal Control at 940- 761-7824. For more information, please contact Animal Services at 940-761-8894.

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