Rabies Cases in the Valley

By: Mary Pulley Email
By: Mary Pulley Email

We are just three months into the year and there are already ten reported rabies cases in the valley.

Rabies Awareness Week starts Monday, but the Central Shenandoah Valley Health District wants to get the word out now because of how rabies tends to be transferred.

"It was a full out bite. She actually drew blood. Quite a bit. I was bleeding pretty freely when she did it,"says Sharra Klug, a TV3 employee, who was bitten one week ago by a stray cat she's been caring for.

Klug didn't go to her doctor right away, but on Friday, Dr. Douglas Larsen, of the Augusta-Staunton Health Department, explains to Klug some thing for which she should look out.

"An animal that's staggering, an animal that's moving its head back and forth in an unusual manner," says Larsen.

If a person does get bitten by a rabis animal, the problem may not appear for some time because of how the disease travels through the human body. However, if exposure does occur, you don't have to wait.

"The good news is that you can initiate these treatments really weeks and months after the event," says Larsen.

He says people who are infected with rabies must go through a series of shots.

"The post treatment is a series of five injections over a 28-day period, and you're also given what we call passive immunity vaccination based on your weight," explains Larsen.

He also says people should avoid contact with rabies by staying away from wild animals like raccoons and don't leave pet food outside because it can attract these animals. Larsen says the number one thing people should do is protect their pets.

"The first thing we really encourage people to do is have their own pets vaccinated. That's the number one way of providing a barrier," says Larsen.

Larsen also says if you have been bitten, tell your doctor immediately. If the animal is dead or dies, don't dispose of the body because it may be needed for testing.

While there have been no reported cases of bats with rabies so far, Larsen says bats are the most common source of rabies infections he's seen in his career.


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