Rabies cases are on the upswing this year, most likely due to the mild winter, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. A total of 21 cases have been identified in the state since Jan. 1.
“Rabies circulates among skunks in Kansas and bats,” Dr. Ingrid Garrison, state public health veterinarian. “This is true throughout the Midwest. The virus passes in the saliva.
“We have a significantly higher number of confirmed rabid animals this year, compared to the same time in 2011,” Dr. Garrison said. “Since 2007, there has been an average of 68 cases of rabid animals a year.”
The animals identified with rabies in 2012 were 10 skunks, four horses, two cows, two bats, one coyote, one raccoon and one cat.
The rabid animals were found in Butler, Cowley, Doniphan, Ford, Greeley, Greenwood, Johnson, Kingman, Kiowa, Marion, Chanute, Riley, Saline, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties. They are tested at the Kansas State University College of Medicine.
So far, no rabid animals have been identified in Barton County, although some animals have been tested.
The KDHE recommends all dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and valuable breeding stock and show animals be vaccinated against rabies.
“A lot of people don’t realize horses need rabies vaccines every year,” said Dr. Garrison. “Horses are very curious.”
She said that the mild winter and early spring weather has caused the skunks to be quite active.
In a news release, the KDHE said the risk for human exposure to rabies is real but preventable by vaccinating domestic animals, eliminating human exposure to stray and wild animals, and providing exposed persons with prompt post-exposure rabies treatment.
“Depending on where you live,” said Dr. Garrison, “dogs, cats and ferrets need vaccinating every year or every three years,” depending on city and county regulations.
Avoiding animals that are acting out of character is a key to avoiding rabies. “If you do see an animal acting strangely, call animal control,” said Dr. Garrison.
For more information about rabies, contact a veterinarian, local health department or the KDHE at 1-877-427-7317.