The case involved a rabid skunk located around 2 miles Southeast of West Plains. The skunk dug into a pen where some dogs were being held and exposed the virus to 4 unvaccinated puppies, 2 adult dogs and a cat that were all required to be euthanized due to their exposure to a rabid animal.
Six area residents, two adults and four children, must now complete the series of rabies post-exposure shots due to their handling of the puppies immediately after they were exposed.
To date in 2011, this is the fourth confirmed case of rabies in Howell County, as well as the 24th rabies case statewide. In 2010, Howell County had a total of 16 positive rabies cases, which all involved skunks. In 2009, Howell County had a total of 4 positive rabies cases, which included 3 skunks and 1 bat.
In 2008, a Texas county man died from rabies after being bitten on the ear by a bat. This was the first human rabies death in Missouri since 1959.
Many Missourians receive the anti-rabies series of shots each year to prevent the development of rabies after having a possible exposure to a rabid animal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 40,000 persons in the United States receive the anti-rabies series of shots annually.
Although rabies is transmitted to humans almost entirely through bites from rabid animals, contamination of open wounds or mucous membranes with saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal could potentially constitute an exposure.
It is important to remember that personal pets should not be handled without protection directly after being exposed to wildlife due to the potential for carrying residual saliva from the infected animal.