The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

October 20, 2010

Rabies resurfaces in Greenbrier

— During the past month, a skunk from Frankford, another from Williamsburg and a raccoon in Lewisburg have been among the animals to test positive for the rabies virus. A dog from the Alderson area tested positive for the disease on Oct. 13.

The only unvaccinated dog among 11 bear dogs from the property, the young hound was still in training and had only been on a handful of excursions. The owners, who acquired the dog in July and presumed it to be vaccinated for rabies, had never witnessed any encounters between the dog and any potentially rabid wildlife. The previous owner did not recall any incidents of note, either.

However, the dog’s veterinarian decided a rabies test would be a good idea since it had suddenly lost all motor skills a couple of days before being euthanized.

Both of the dog’s owners and the veterinarian were surprised at the course the animal’s illness had taken when they learned of the rabies diagnosis. Apparently healthy at 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 5, the dog was discovered in a near comatose state at 4:30 a.m. the next day.

The veterinarian was unable to effect any improvement in the dog after giving it two days of supportive care. All parties involved remarked upon the fact that the dog’s symptoms were not what people traditionally associate with the rabies virus.

The case demonstrates the continued need for residents of areas where rabies is endemic to avoid sick-acting animals or those whose behavior simply doesn’t seem normal and, most importantly, to keep domestic pets vaccinated.

Children should be taught not to approach wildlife, even if the animal appears helpless or injured.

Unvaccinated pets or livestock that die with neurological symptoms should be tested for the virus if any contact with humans or other domesticated animals is suspected.

West Virginia residents and medical providers are required to report an encounter that may have resulted in a saliva or cerebrospinal fluid exposure from any mammal to the local health department within 24 hours.

Health department personnel are charged with taking appropriate follow-up measures that protect victims of such encounters from the prospect of being infected with rabies virus, because if the virus reaches the central nervous system before preventive treatment can be given, it is considered to be 100 percent fatal.

The USDA continues to do research and preparation that will enable the distribution of oral rabies vaccine in Greenbrier County.

The vaccine will be strategically air-dropped within the county and is a new experimental formulation of the vaccine that has traditionally been dropped by USDA in the perimeter geography of areas where rabies is endemic. It is estimated that the distribution of this experimental vaccine bait will begin next autumn.

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