ELIZABETHTOWN — Only two cases of rabies have been confirmed in Bladen County this year, which is well below the six cases confirmed in 2015, and Bladen County officials are hoping to keep it that way.
With the warm summer months putting wild animals and household pets potentially on more of a collision course, Bladen County Animal Control/Shelter Manager Karen Suggs is urging pet owners to have their pets vaccinated against rabies.
“If your pet has contact with a wild animal and has not been vaccinated against rabies, there is a very good chance that your pet will have to be either quarantined or put down,” she said. “You cannot be sure by looking at a wild animal if they are rabid, and if your pet spends a majority of the time outside without you, you may not know if it has come into contact with a rabid animal until it is too late.”
Suggs added that, if a pet becomes infected, it could bite anyone in the family or another person and potentially pass rabies.
“Also if you have been scratched, or bitten by a animal that has not been vaccinated or is suspicious of rabies, call 911 for animal control and go immediately to the local emergency room,” Suggs said. “There are a series of shots that are given to prevent rabies in humans after they are bitten, but why take a chance when prevention is so easy?”
Other Bladen County officials agreed with the importance of rabies vaccinations.
“This is a simple step to avoid a very bad experience for you or family members,” said Bladen County Health Director David Howard.
“Do not take a chance,” said Kory Hair, Animal Control supervisor. “Have your animals vaccinated and avoid wild animals that come in your yard.”
“The simple cost of the vaccination can save the life of your animal and save you a lot of grief over the loss of a pet and concern about the safety of your family,” said Sheila Rains, Communicable Disease nurse for the Bladen County Health Department. “To avoid complications get your pet vaccinated. It is cheap and easy to do.”
According to Suggs, the two cases of rabies already confirmed in Bladen County were found in two different parts of the county and were both found in foxes.
“The most common animals associated with and are carriers of rabies are foxes, raccoons and bats,” Suggs said. “It does not matter where you live, country or town, rabid animals can be there.”
Officials with the Center for Disease Control claim that the early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. There may be also discomfort at the site of bite or a prickling or itching sensation. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hyper salivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water).
Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive. To date less than 10 documented cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been reported and only two have not had a history of pre- or post-exposure prophylaxis. Disease prevention includes administration of both passive antibody, through an injection of human immune globulin and a round of injections with rabies vaccine.
For information about rabies vaccinations or symptoms, contact the Bladen County Health Department at 910-862-6900, Animal Shelter at 910-862-6918, or any local veterinarian’s office.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.