The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is anticipating an increase in the number of rabid animals this year compared to last year, and is reminding the public to have their animals vaccinated by a veterinarian.
Since Jan. 1, 13 animals in Kansas have tested positive for rabies this year. The 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.
“We have a significantly higher number of confirmed rabid animals this year, 13, compared to just four during the same time in 2011,” said Ingrid Garrison, KDHE state public health veterinarian.
Since 2007, Kansas has averaged 68 cases of rabid animals a year. Vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep.
“People understand the importance of vaccinating dogs and cats against rabies but often forget about vaccinating horses,” Garrison said.
“Although vaccination of all cattle and sheep is not practical, we encourage vaccination of valuable breeding stock and show animals,” she added.
Animals need periodic boosters of vaccine to maintain proper protection. City or county may have ordinances that require proof of rabies vaccination for your pet.
The risk for human exposure to rabies is real but preventable, according to the KDHE. Animal rabies is common in Kansas, and skunks are the animals most likely to have the disease, but 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.
“Vaccinating animals against rabies not only protects our pets, but our families as well,” Garrison said.
KDHE tips for preventing rabies
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment 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.