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Fill-in-Blank News Release for County Health Departments

For Release: _____, 2005
Contact: __________
_____ County Health Department
(Phone)

Proper Vaccination Protects Your Pets From Rabies

Vaccinating companion animals – such as dogs and cats – against rabies is crucial for their protection as well as the protection of you and your family from this disease, says the _____ County Health Department. Already this year, more than 50 cases of animal rabies have been reported in Oklahoma, with cases confirmed in skunks, cattle, horses, dogs, and a cat and goat.

“Vaccinating your pets may have the added benefit of protecting your family from exposure to rabies and avoid the costly and uncomfortable process of receiving post-exposure shots,” said _____ County Health Department Administrative Director _____. “Although most rabies cases in Oklahoma occur in skunks, most human exposures to rabies result from contact to unvaccinated pets or livestock that become rabid following an encounter with a rabid wild animal.”

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is almost always fatal once symptoms of the disease have started. Rabies virus is found in the brain, spinal cord and saliva of infected animals and is transmitted through a bite or opening in the skin or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, or mouth).

Oklahoma rules and regulations require that a veterinarian vaccinate dogs, cats, and ferrets against rabies by the time the animal is 4 months of age. The interval between rabies vaccinations and boosters will depend upon the age of the animal, type of vaccine administered, and city licensing codes. Rabies vaccines labeled for use in horses, sheep, and cattle are also available and recommended for show animals and all valuable breeding stock.

If an animal bites a person and the animal is a dog, cat, or ferret not owned by the bite victim, and is not currently vaccinated, it must be quarantined with a licensed veterinarian for 10 days. If the animal remains healthy for 10 days, it is proof that the biting animal was not infectious with rabies at the time the bite occurred, so no rabies shots are needed for the person who was bitten. If another type of animal caused the bite, the _____ County Health Department sanitarian should be contacted. Animals other than domestic pets may need to be quarantined for 30 days under the care of a veterinarian, or euthanized and tested for rabies.

If it is necessary to euthanize the biting animal, the State Public Health Laboratory can test the brain for rabies. In order to conduct such testing, however, the brain tissues must be intact. It is important to remember not to shoot the animal in the head or crush the skull of the animal in order to achieve the best testing results.

“In addition to vaccinating their pets, owners should also keep their dogs and cats close to home to reduce contact with other animals,” _____ emphasized. Outdoor dogs should be kenneled, or kept within a fenced-in yard. Cats should be kept indoors as much as possible and not allowed to roam freely at night to cut down on possible exposure to rabid animals. Parents should teach their children to never handle wild animals, or approach unfamiliar dogs or cats.

“If you suspect your animals have been exposed to rabies, immediately contact the _____ County Health Department at (phone number) or call the (city) animal control officer at (phone number),” s/he warned.

For more information about rabies, contact the _____ County Health Department or your veterinarian. Rabies information is also available on the Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site at http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/rabies.htm.

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