Rabies Awareness Week means: vaccinate

From contributed reports
The Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District is urging people to “Protect the Ones You Love. Vaccinate Your Pets.” This important message is the focus of this year’s Rabies Awareness Week, which is Sept. 27 through Oct. 3.

“Vaccinating companion animals, such as dogs and cats, against rabies for their protection as well as the protection of other family members is very important,” says Dana Bradshaw, the district’s health director.

If cost is a factor, many shelters and other organizations offer discounted vaccination clinics — and, in fact, the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League (RAWL), thanks to a donation by Rene and John Nolan, is holding another of its reduced-fee rabies clinics this Saturday (Sept. 25) from 9 to 1 at RAWL’s facility on Weaver Road, next to the county landfill in Amissville. The cost is $10 per animal, and proceeds benefit RAWL. Vaccinations are available for cats and dogs from any county (pets must be at least four months old) Call 540-937-3336 or visit www.rawldogs.org for more information.

Within Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, meanwhile, Bradshaw says, the total number of rabies cases in animals confirmed to date in 2010 is 15, compared to the 37 cases confirmed by the end of calendar year 2009.

“The rabies virus is shed in the saliva of animals sick with the virus, so any animal bite should be taken seriously,” stresses Bradshaw. “If an animal bites you, wash the wound immediately. Call your physician, local health department, or animal control agency immediately.”

Likewise, if your pet is bitten by a wild animal, contact your veterinarian or local health department immediately. In Virginia, raccoons, skunks, and foxes are most likely to be infected with rabies, though any mammal may be susceptible. Bats may also transmit rabies.

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District strongly advises that people take the following steps to prevent families and pets from being exposed to rabies:

• Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies and keep them up to date!
• Avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs.
• Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs.
• Report stray animals to your local animal control agency.
• Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home.
• Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash.

During Rabies Awareness Week, some veterinarians may be offering low cost rabies vaccinations. Check to see if your pet’s doctor is participating. State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of four months to be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccines can be given as early as three months and one product is approved for kittens at eight weeks. Dog licenses are required throughout the state and some communities require licenses for cats.

For more information on rabies, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s Web site at vdh.virginia.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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