West Plains, MO. – The fourth confirmed case of rabies was reported to the Howell County Health Department by the Missouri State Public Health Lab in Jefferson City. The case involved a rabid skunk near Christopher Street on the West Plains city limits. The skunk was killed by a family dog in the area. The dog had current rabies vaccinations and was receiving rabies booster shots and was placed under a 45-day home quarantine.
Justin Frazier, Environmental Public Health Supervisor at the Howell County Health Department, said: “Because pet owners in this case are diligent in keeping their animal up to date on their vaccinations, we were able to avoid euthanizing or quarantining them for 6 months at a veterinary facility.” at the expense of the owner as a result of rabies exposure. It’s very important that people protect themselves from rabies by not touching a pet that has been exposed to a wild animal until that animal can be tested to see if it carries the rabies virus.” Frazier explained, “It never does Funny having to recommend a person get a rabies shot or require pets to be euthanized. Unfortunately, rabies is a fatal disease and as such exposed individuals must NOT wait and seek treatment until symptoms develop. It is extremely important that anyone who has been bitten by a pet, has had an exposure such as a bite or scratch from a wild animal, or has been in contact with a pet who has been exposed to a wild animal, reports the incident to the public health department, as well as their doctor receive a rabies risk assessment. After a possible exposure, the right measures must be taken quickly to protect people from the rabies virus.”
In 2008, a Texas man died of rabies after being bitten on the ear by a bat and not seeking medical attention after the bite. This was the first human rabies death in Missouri since 1959. Many Missourians receive the anti-rabies vaccine each year to prevent developing rabies after possible contact with a rabid animal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 40,000 people in the United States receive the anti-rabies vaccine series each year.
Although rabies is transmitted to humans almost exclusively through the bites of rabid animals, contamination of open wounds or mucous membranes with saliva or nerve tissue from a rabid animal could potentially constitute exposure. It is important to remember that private pets should not be treated unprotected immediately after contact with wild animals due to the possibility of exposure through debris from an infected animal’s saliva.