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Health Officials Warn of Increase in Rabies

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) wants to remind the public to have their animals vaccinated against rabies by a veterinarian. With 13 animals testing positive for rabies in Kansas since Jan. 1, health officials here anticipate an increase in the number of rabid animals this year compared to last year.

 The 13 rabid animals included four skunks, two bats, two horses, two cows, one cat, one coyote and one raccoon. None of the domestic animals were vaccinated against rabies.

 Since 2007, there has been an average of 68 cases of rabid animals a year in Kansas.

Vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep. Animals need to have periodic boosters of vaccine to maintain proper protection. The risk for human exposure to rabies is real but preventable. Animal rabies is common in Kansas, and skunks are the animals most likely to have the disease. However, skunks can pass the virus to other animals, such as dogs, cats, cattle and horses. Prevention of human rabies depends on vaccinating domestic animals, eliminating human exposures to stray and wild animals, and providing exposed persons with prompt post-exposure rabies treatment.

KDHE offers these tips to prevent rabies:

• Have your veterinarian vaccinate all dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and valuable breeding stock and show animals (cattle and sheep) against rabies.

• If bitten by an animal, seek medical attention and report the bite to your local public health department or animal control department immediately.

• If your animal is bitten, contact your veterinarian or local health department for advice.

• If you wake up in a room with a bat present, even if there is no evidence of a bite or scratch, seek medical attention.

• Do not handle or feed wild animals. Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.

• Do not try to nurse sick wild animals back to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.

• Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.

 For more information about rabies, contact your veterinarian, local health department or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment at 1-877-427-7317.

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