Rabies Alert: Significant Increase In Cases Cited

Cases are up sharply and it's not just pet owners who should be worried.

Published on: May 3, 2012

Citing a significant increase in rabies cases, North Dakota animal health officials are urging people to make sure pets and animals that are valuable and/or handled frequently are vaccinated against the disease.

"We have already had 40 confirmed cases this year," says Beth Carlson, deputy state veterinarian. "That's double the 20 cases we had in all of 2011."

Cases have been found in cattle, horses, sheep, cats, bats and a large number of skunks.

"We typically see one or two cases in dogs each year as well," she says. "All mammals are susceptible to rabies."

Rabies Alert: Significant Increase In Cases Cited
Rabies Alert: Significant Increase In Cases Cited

"This is not just a companion animal issue," warns Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

"Farmers and ranchers should consult their veterinarians about vaccinating animals that are especially valuable or frequently handled."

Vaccines are approved for most domestic animals including cats, dogs, ferrets, sheep, horses and cattle.

Be on the look-out for livestock showing strange or unusual behavior and report them to your veterinarian immediately.

A viral disease usually transmitted by the bite of an infected animal, rabies is always fatal in animals once signs of disease are seen. Onset of disease is typically one to three months after exposure, but can range from less than one week to several months.

Immediate treatment in humans exposed to rabies, known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), is highly successful in preventing the disease. PEP is provided to prevent rabies disease in humans, once a person starts showing symptoms of rabies it is almost always fatal. Only a few people have been known to survive rabies infection without this treatment.

Carlson says questions about rabies relating to humans should be directed to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Skunks are the primary vector for rabies in the state.

Source: ND Department of Agriculture