Rabies confirmed in Lobelia
A rabid skunk appeared near a home in Lobelia last Thursday and was promptly shot by the home owner, according to county sanitarian David Henderson.
Lab results returned to the Pocahontas County Health Department on Friday confirmed that the animal had rabies, making it the countyﾒs third confirmed case of rabies this year, according to West Virginia Bureau of Public Health records.
Statewide, 75 cases have been reported between January and August. Pendleton County has led the state and neighboring counties with 16 reported cases this year. Greenbrier County has had seven cases, according to sanitarian Bonnie Morgan. Theﾠ BPHﾒs records show that no cases have yet been reported in Randolph, Webster and Nicholas counties.
The three rabid animals reported this year in Pocahontas County are the most the county has seen since 2002, when four cases were reported to the BPH.
ﾓPeople should make sure their pets are vaccinated,ﾔ Henderson said. ﾓThey should also be on the lookout for animals that are out in the daylight and acting strangely.ﾔ
Nocturnal species like skunks, raccoons and foxes tend to be prime candidates for rabies infections, said Henderson. Bats can also carry the virus. While these animals do sometimes come out during the day, people should be cautious if such an animal appears to be unusually aggressive or tame or if the animal is drooling excessively.
Henderson also recommended that pet owners make sure their animalsﾒ vaccinations and boosters are up-to-date. Keeping pets indoors, if possible, will also reduce their risk of getting bitten by an infected animal or scavenging on animals that have died from rabies.
In the case of the family that encountered the rabid skunk in Lobelia, a dog is now under quarantine for 90 days after it got hold of the dead animal, Henderson said.
Because many people do not vaccinate their cats against rabies, they have replaced dogs as the most common pet animal threat to humans, according to the BPH. Cats often bat at drooling saliva, contaminating their claws, the BPH states. Because of this, cat scratches are almost as dangerous as bites.
Rabies is most commonly transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.
The virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation,ﾠ excessive salivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water), according the CDC.
Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
Over the last century, rabies in the United States has changed dramatically. More than 90 percent of all animal cases reported annually to CDC now occur in wildlife; ﾠbefore 1960 most cases were in domestic animals.
Cats, cattle and dogs are the most commonly infected domestic animals.
The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the last century, to one or two per year in the 1990s, according to the CDC.ﾠ
Modern day treatment has a nearly 100 percent success rate, according to the CDC. In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure.
If exposed to rabies, the BPH recommends washing the wound immediately with warm soapy waterﾗwhich can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the virusﾗand contacting your familyﾒs physician for follow-up care.
People who may have been exposed to the virus or may have found an infected animal should also contact the local health department.
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