Confirmed case in Sharp County, No confirmed cases in Oregon County
OREGON COUNTY -- Rabies has been confirmed in a skunk found dead near a home in Sharp County earlier this month.
Oregon County Health Department Director Shelia Russell said as of last week, no animals, wild or domestic, have been reported as rabid in the county.
"We are fortunate in our area because Dr. Greg Langley holds a rabies clinic every spring where a lot of dogs in the county receive a rabies vaccination at a reduced price," Russell said.
Russell added that this of course does not pertain to wild animals and there is always the possibility that a wild animal could carry rabies. "Vaccinating our domestic animals is the key to keeping them safe against this deadly disease," she said.
Russell said in the last year the health department has not tested one animal positive for rabies.
Sharp County Health Unit Administrator James Tanner said the skunk was found on the carport of a home near Cave City. It had been killed by dogs.
After the skunk was brought into the health unit and tested, it was confirmed Aug. 7 that it was rabid, Tanner said.
"If you see an animal out during the day, especially a wild animal, try to avoid them," he said. "Don't try to touch or pet wild animals."
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of mammals. It can be transmitted through bites from infected animals which are most often found in the wild. Skunks, bats, raccoons, coyotes and foxes are often found to have rabies. Cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock can also develop rabies, according to a press release from the Arkansas Department of Health.
Bites aren't the only way one can become infected, Tanner said. Exposure to the animal's saliva through any skin wound or mucous membrane can also occur.
"That's why it's important when someone gets an animal bite that they monitor it because it can be transmitted by saliva," he said.
Rabies can be confirmed only in a laboratory, but there are warning signs. Rabid animals typically display a change in behavior, either being unusually tame or aggressive. Other characteristics include staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth or paralysis. Some animals have a change in the pitch of their voice. Animals demonstrating such signs typically die within a week, the press release said.
If any domesticated animal such as a dog or cat bites a human, the animal must be captured, confined and observed for 10 days, Tanner said. If the animal remains healthy, it does not have rabies and did not transmit rabies through the bite.
Wild animals suspected of having rabies are euthanized, and the brain tissue is sent to a laboratory for testing.
Tanner said people often shoot an animal in the head to kill it. Doing so is not recommended, he said. The brain must be in tact for testing.
There is no cure for rabies, he said.
"That's why we monitor the dog bites," Tanner said. "You can prevent it, but you can't cure it once you get it."
To protect against rabies, residents should follow some simple guidelines.
* Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals.
* Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
* Keep family pets indoors at night.
*Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter each year.
* Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if they are bitten by an animal.
Pet owners should make sure their pets' shots are up to date, Tanner said. Although rabies vaccinations don't guarantee an animal won't contract rabies from a rabid animal, it does greatly reduce the chance, he said.
If one is thought to have been exposed to rabies, they should wash their wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical care. The county health unit should also be contacted. If a human is exposed to an animal confirmed to have rabies, they are to begin treatment -- a series of costly shots -- immediately.
In September 2004, a 52-year-old Cherokee Village man was bitten by a rabid bat. He spent more than $1,800 to receive the treatment. He remains healthy.