Archive for Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Area health officials issue warning to residents about rabies cases

July 26, 2006

Members of a Leavenworth family have undergone treatment for rabies after their adopted kitten died and tested positive for the disease, the Leavenworth County Health Department reported this week.

The case is one of four confirmed cases of animal rabies reported to Kansas City, Jackson County and Leavenworth County health departments since May, which has led officials to urge residents to take precautions to avoid rabies.

"Metro area health departments are very vigilant in watching all suspicious animals for rabies," Sylvia Burns, Leavenworth County health director, said in a news release from the Mid-America Regional Council. "If any animal shows symptoms, please report them to authorities immediately."

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. Symptoms start with possible pain at the site of exposure, as well as flu-like symptoms such as malaise, fever or headache.

The two types of animal rabies are "furious" and "dumb" rabies. Animals with furious rabies are hostile, may bite and have an increase in saliva. Dumb, or paralytic rabies, is more common, with the animal becoming timid and shy, often rejecting food and having paralysis of the lower jaw and other muscles.

Human rabies cases are nearly 100 percent fatal once symptoms occur. It is important that you avoid being exposed to rabies, or if exposed, it is imperative that a person begins treatment as soon as possible.

What to do

These precautions are recommended as protection against rabies:

¢ Avoid picking up or touching stray animals that are acting abnormally or appear to be ill.

¢ Keep pet vaccinations up-to-date.

¢ Spay or neuter pets to control stray populations and reduce aggressive tendencies.

¢ If you have been bitten by an animal and don't know the animal's vaccine status, seek medical attention.

¢ Wild animals or hybrids should not be kept as pets. No rabies vaccines are licensed for use in wild animals or hybrids (offspring of wild animals crossbred with domestic animals.)

¢ If traveling out of the United States, be aware rabies cases in domestic animals are more common.

In the Leavenworth case, six of the family members were evaluated for rabies and five of them underwent treatment, said Karen Savage, a spokeswoman for the Leavenworth County Health Department.

She said the family had adopted the pet from a Wyandotte County veterinarian. After taking the kitten home, family members noticed the pet was ill and thought it might have been eating a poisonous plant. The pet was taken back to the Wyandotte County veterinarian and treated.

The kitten was taken back home, but its condition worsened, Savage said. It started biting and scratching family members, and the cat then was taken to an emergency veterinary clinic in Johnson County, where it died.

Tests showed the kitten had rabies. Health officials in Leavenworth, Wyandotte and Johnson counties began notifying people who had come into contact with the animal. In all, Savage said, 32 people from the three counties, most of them with the veterinary clinics, were treated for rabies.

The federal Centers for Disease Control said a person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get five doses of rabies vaccine -- one dose right away and additional doses on the third, seventh, 14th and 28th days after exposure.

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