Rabies Scare in Savannah
Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR
Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital
I want to shout this from the rooftops; go check your petâ€™s records now. Is she/he current on a Rabies vaccine? Several times a week we get asked why Chatham County (as well as neighboring counties) requires a rabies vaccine yearly even though they are current in other areas of the country for 3 years. This is especially a concern from those who live in Savannah part time and up north part time.
A recent new story swept the media when a dog contracted rabies and exposed several people in the Savannah area. In Florida, helicopters are having to drop baited meat laced with the rabies vaccine because of an epidemic of rabies in the raccoon population. Think how often your pet comes in contact with the wildlife in our area. It is because of this extensive wildlife population that our county officials and our Health Department have seen fit to impose the stronger, once a year, requirement for the rabies vaccine. It is the law and is there to protect not only your pet but also the humans who are around your pet. Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
We have become complacent about vaccines in the US both for our children and our pets. We are beginning to see a rise in diseases that were once all but eradicated by vaccination. We often think only other countries have problems with rabies but, every year, an estimated 40,000 people in the U.S. receive a series of shots known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) due to potential exposure to rabies. Rabies is a deadly virus that can kill anyone who gets it.
As a pet advocate, my concern is two-fold. This scare has Health Departments and Animal Control Agencies offering discounted Rabies clinics to ensure costs donâ€™t prohibit pet owners from getting their pet vaccinated. While that does protect the pet and the owner, it does do an injustice to the pet if getting the rabies vaccine is the only health care issue being addressed. Pets need a thorough physical exam yearly as well to ensure that they are healthy. The vaccine clinics are not set up to perform all that is involved in a physical exam. Diseases go undetected and an owner might have a false sense of ease since all the vaccinations are up to date. Celebrate September 28th, National Rabies Day, by ensuring that your pet has had a complete wellness exam as well as being up-to-date on vaccines. Diseases that are preventable by vaccine are not the only thing on the rise. Obesity, kidney disease, allergies, etc are also growing at a rapid rate. Your veterinarians can help!
For more information about rabies, go to http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.