(West Plains) – The fifth confirmed case of rabies has been reported to the Howell County Health Department by the Missouri State Public Health Lab in Jefferson City. The case involved a rabid skunk approximately 4 miles South of Willow Springs. The rabid skunk was found in a holding pen with 62 dairy cattle. The cattle have been placed under quarantine until December of 2012.
Justin Frazier, Environmental Public Health Supervisor with the Howell County Health Department says that this situation is different from previous rabies cases due to livestock being involved and the inability to confirm the extent of exposure to the cattle with the rabid skunk. Directives regarding quarantine, handling and milking of the exposed cattle in the case come from the Department of Health and Senior Services State Veterinarian Office, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the Missouri Milk Board. The milk may continue to be sold to processors who pasteurize the product.
To date in 2012, this is the fifth confirmed cases of rabies in Howell County, as well as the eighteenth 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.
In 2008, a Texas county man died from rabies after being bitten on the ear by a bat, marking 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 experiencing 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.
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.
The Howell County Health Department encourage all residents with dogs and cats as pets to keep them current on yearly rabies vaccines to protect them as well as you. Additional information about rabies is available by calling the Environmental Public Health Section at the Howell County Health Department at 417-256-7078.