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Being aware of the dangers of rabies

By: Scott McLendon

The average person doesn’t very well know diseases in wildlife, and while rabies is a danger of which most are aware; it is one against which we should remain vigilant. It is spread through the saliva of infected animals. Its transference to humans happens most often through a pet that has contracted it from a wild animal.

While dogs are responsible for most transferences to humans they are also more likely than their feline friends to receive care from a veterinarian.

“Both parents and their children should be aware of the dangers of

rabies,” said local veterinarian Dr. Alethea Gammage. “People in rural areas are in more danger than urbanized areas. Parents should tell their kids not to play with wild animals and not to get too close to ones they don’t know.”

There are indicators one can use to identify an animal with rabies.

Infected animals will behave outside of an ordinary fashion. Foam protruding from the oral cavity is also an indication of rabies.

The initial symptoms of rabies are quite similar to that of the flu. Headache, weakness and a fever can be expected in the first several days after contracting rabies. More sinister side effects begin to take place in the disease’s progression. People who have contracted rabies will begin to experience cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion and agitation. Delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations and insomnia follow, if left untreated. Once the clinical signs of rabies have set in, survival is rare.

Raccoons and bats are the culprits most likely to spread the disease. The virus has nearly a 100 percent fatality rate if untreated. While deadly, the disease is one that hasn’t affected Americans as much as those in other nations. Since 2003, only 34 cases have been reported. Of those cases, 10 were contracted outside of the United States and its territories. Over 95 percent of deaths via rabies occur in Africa and Asia.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns pet owners to have their animals tested if they get scratched or bitten by a wild, carnivorous mammal. The CDC further states that any unvaccinated animal that has come into contact with a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately.

Your beloved cats and dogs aren’t at risk from contracting rabies from small mammals, however. Animals such as squirrels, mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits and many other rodents have almost never been found to be infected with the disease.