People in urban areas like the Twin Cities and even those in semi-rural areas like Stillwater, Minnesota and Hudson, Wisconsin underestimate the risk of rabies for their pets and for themselves. The recent case of a man in Maryland dying of rabies from a transplanted kidney underscores the importance of awareness of the potential for rabies here in Washington County and throughout the country.
We continue to see several cases of animal rabies each year in Minnesota, including in Washington County. Just this week a family in Todd County in Minnesota was treated after exposure to a calf that died from rabies following a skunk bite. For information on Rabies cases in Minnesota visit the Minnesota Board of Animal Health website. http://mn.gov/bah/diseases/rabies/.
The cases of human deaths related to animal bites is small but with awareness and follow through when contact with a suspicious animal occurs often these deaths could be avoided.
Animal bites in general are a huge problem. 4.5 million People are bitten by dogs in the United States each year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 5 of those requires medical attention. Many of these are bites to children and often the attacks can lead to serious injury and death. The Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association launched a program three years ago to teach children the skills needed to prevent animal bites. We have incorporated this program into our Mini Vet School for kids. It is one of the most important skills a child can learn about approaching pets and unknown animals.
In the case of the Maryland man, a kidney had been transplanted 18 months before from a patient who died from a case of encephalitis of unknown cause. In animals most veterinarians are aware of the importance of testing pets that die of encephalitis for rabies because of the risk of rabies in pets. The incidence in humans is so low this was not done. There is one other person with a transplanted kidney from this patient undergoing rabies prevention treatment. He is expected to survive.
Spring is just around the corner and many people are ready to hit the outdoors with their pets. Call us at Rivertown Animal Hospital or check with your veterinary hospital to be sure that your pet is up to day on rabies and other vaccinations. If you or anyone in your family are bit or scratched by a dog or cat, especially one you do not know is up to date on its rabies and other vaccinations contact your health care provider or call the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414. For pets bitten by wild animals with unknown rabies risk please contact your veterinarian.
If you would like more information on the risks of dog and cat bites or on the risks of rabies please visit the following websites.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) – http://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/index.html
World Health Organization (WHO) – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/
Minnesota Board of Animal Health – https://www.bah.state.mn.us/rabies
Dr. Ginger Garlie