Last updated: August 23. 2013 3:49PM - 331 Views

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By April Shattuck When I was a child, I remember watching “Cujo,” a movie about a St. Bernard that contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town. As a horror fan, I avidly read and watched Stephen King's works. “Cujo,” however, was more terrifying than any of his other novels. Unlike a ghost-ridden hotel or an American Indian burial site for pets, a dog with rabies wasn't as far-fetched and does happen. In fact, 55,000 people worldwide die from rabies each year, a rate of one person every 10 minutes. The greatest number of deaths occurs in Asia and Africa, with approximately 50 percent of those deaths in victims under the age of 15. Exposure to rabid dogs is still the cause of more than 90 percent of human exposures to rabies and of more than 99 percent of human deaths worldwide. Majority of these deaths occur in underdeveloped countries where there is inadequate public health resources and limited access to preventative programs. Rabies is shed through the saliva of an infected animal and then spread through a bite wound. Once introduced, the virus travels through the nervous system eventually infecting the brain. Initially, the bite wound may seem tingly and itchy. Flu-like symptoms follow with symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. As the disease progresses to the brain, people show irritability, aggression, hallucinations, sensitivity to light or sound, weakness, paralysis and seizures. The individual will find it difficult to swallow and have increase salivation and/or tearing. Paralysis will continue through the remainder of the body, resulting in coma and death.Infected animals will have a similar progression of the disease. The animal may hide more, behave different, run a fever or have a lack in appetite. After about a week, the pet may enter the furious phase (popular public view of rabies) where they are extremely agitated and attack anything that moves. Not all animals go through the furious phase but skip it and go into the paralytic phase. In this phase, they have difficulty swallowing, drool excessively and, in dogs, have a dropped lower jaw.In the U.S., rabies has changed dramatically over the last 100 years, due in part to rabies testing and vaccination programs. Before 1960, majority of rabies cases were reported in domestic animals, whereas 90 percent of cases reported yearly now are found in wildlife. The number of rabies-related deaths has declined from more than 100 annually to just two or three per year now. Those individuals die due to lack of quick treatment, most likely because they didn't even know they had been exposed. Make no mistake: rabies is present in Ohio! Every year, about 50 animals are confirmed with rabies. In 2010, two bats tested positive for the rabies virus in Hardin County. Raccoons, bats and skunks are the most common wildlife to carry rabies in the state of Ohio, but any mammal is susceptible to the virus if exposed. This is why vaccination of domestic pets is so important. Rabies is 100 percent preventable! Surprisingly, many people do not vaccinate their pets to this deadly disease. Even if your pet lives exclusively indoors, he/she needs to be vaccinated against rabies. Exposure to wildlife, although slim, is still possible. Bats can enter homes through your chimney, and raccoons can make their home in your basement or attic. Are you willing to gamble the safety of your family? Secondly, if your pet bites a person, the county health department will enquire about your pets' rabies vaccination status. A few weeks ago, I revisited my childhood and watched “Cujo” again. This movie is not for kids! It was just as terrifying and as intense as the first time I saw it, but I slept better knowing that my pets were vaccinated against rabies. How will you sleep tonight?In Support of World Rabies Day (Sept. 28), Delphos Animal Hospital is hosting a Rabies Vaccine Clinic from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. We will be offering rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats, ferrets and horses for $15. Microchipping will also be available. Walk-ins welcome.

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