Rabies vaccination urged

Stokes County Health Department is partnering with Stokes County Animal Control, to urge pet owners to keep their rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, dogs, and ferrets. The number of unvaccinated or not up-to-date pets exposed to wild animals has increased over the last several weeks in Stokes County, requiring quarantine or in some cases euthanization.

North Carolina rabies law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. One shot is not enough; rabies vaccinations must be kept current. If your pet is not currently vaccinated and is bitten by an animal that is or might be rabid, by law the health director requires animal control to either quarantine the pet up to six months or euthanization at the owners expense. For the animal to be considered current on rabies vaccine, the animal needs to be vaccinated more than 28 days before being exposed, and must be given a rabies vaccine booster shot within 5 days of being exposed. If this is not followed, the animal will be considered not current on the rabies vaccine and will either be quarantined or euthanized at the owner’s expense.

Most often rabies is transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, but can be transmitted by exposure through scratches, abrasion, open wounds or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or other infectious material such as brain/nervous system tissue of an infected animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Any mammal can transmit rabies, but the majority of rabies cases reported in North Carolina occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. These wild animals can transmit rabies to your pet, making it crucial to ensure your pet is up-to-date on the rabies vaccine. Exposure with an infected animal places you and your family at risk for rabies infection.

There are several things you can do to protect and prevent your pet from rabies:

First, visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations current for all cats, ferrets, and dogs. Scott Lenhart, Stokes County Health Director, states “the rabies vaccine is very reasonable, as the cost of one vaccine out ways a quarantine up to six months or worse case euthanatization of your pet. There are many rabies clinics offered throughout the area, some with a reduce rate to help get your animals vaccinated. All animal owners need to be more responsible for the protection of their family, pets, and the community.”

Second, maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.

Third, spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinate regularly.

The best way to protect your family and pets against rabies is have your pets vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian. For additional information or questions, please contact Stokes County Health Department at 336-593-2400 or Stokes County Animal Control at 336-994-2788 or visit the following sites: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/ or http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rabies.html. For the NC General Statutes concerning rabies; GS 130A-185 and GS130A-197 visit the following site http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/Statutes/StatutesTOC.pl?Chapter=0130A.

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