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(West Plains) – Two confirmed cases of rabies have been reported to the Howell County Health Department by the Missouri State Public Health Lab in Jefferson City.

The cases involved rabid skunks found around 2 miles east and 3 miles southeast of West Plains. In one case, the exposed dogs had current rabies vaccinations and received a booster shot. The other case involved an exposed dog which was unvaccinated, and was therefore euthanized due to its exposure to a rabid animal.

Although rabies is transmitted to humans almost entirely through bites from rabid animals, department officials say contamination of open wounds or mucous membranes with saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal could potentially constitute an exposure.

To date in 2012, this is the first and second confirmed cases of rabies in Howell County, as well as the fifth rabies case statewide. Howell County ended 2011 with 7 rabid skunks reported to the Howell County Health Department. In 2010, Howell County had a total of 16 positive rabies cases, which all involved skunks. In 2009, Howell County had a total of 4 positive rabies cases, which included 3 skunks and 1 bat.

Annually, 7,000 to 8,000 rabid animals are detected in the United States, with more than 90 percent of the cases in wild animals. Rabies is found naturally in Missouri, occurring primarily in bats and skunks, although other animals are also found to be rabid each year, including domestic species such as dogs, cats, horses, and cattle.

Protection from Rabies

If an animal of yours comes into contact with a rabid animal, call your local health department immediately. If you can, confine the rabid animal and the bitten animal in separate places. Wash the bite wound immediately with warm, soapy water for 10-15 minutes. Be aware that exposure of cuts or sores to rabid animal mucous or nervous tissue could expose you to the virus.

To help protect against rabies, make sure dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Vaccinations are also available for horses, cattle, and sheep. Avoid contact with stray pets and wild animals and do not keep wild animals or wild animal crosses as pets. Also, report wild animals exhibiting unusual behavior or stray pets to animal control officials.

Countywide Rabies Clinics to be Held

The Howell County Health Department will again be sponsoring a countywide rabies vaccination clinic on April 28, where county residents may receive reduced cost vaccinations for their pets. West Plains clinics will be held from 8 AM to 5 PM April 28 at Kramer Animal Hospital on St. Louis St., from 8 AM to 12 PM at West Plains Vet Clinic on W. Highway 160, 8 AM to 4 PM at Talburt Animal Health Center on Porter Wagoner Blvd., and 8-11 AM at the Animal Clinic of West Plains on St. Route 17. A clinic will also be held from 12-3:30 PM at the Howell County Fairgronds on Highway 60.

In Willow Springs, a clinic will be held from 9-11 AM at Booster Field, and from 9 AM to noon April 21 at the Animal Clinic of Willow Springs.

In Mountain View, a clinic will be held from 1-3 PM at the Mountain View Farmers Market.

Rabies Can Be Deadly

In 2008, a Texas county man died from rabies after being bitten on the ear by a bat. This was the first human rabies death in Missouri since 1959. Many Missourians receive the anti-rabies series of shots each year to prevent the development of rabies after having a possible exposure to a rabid animal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 40,000 persons in the United States receive the anti-rabies series of shots annually.

Additional information about rabies is available by calling the Environmental Public Health Section at the Howell County Health Department at 417-256-7078.

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