Howell County rabies diagnosis leads to euthanization of dogs, shots for people
The Howell County Health Department says a six-week-old puppy that showed symptoms and died recently tested positive for rabies. The puppy had been given to another family, but originated from the Moody area.
The health department says eight other unvaccinated dogs, including the puppy's mother and litter mates, had to be euthanized. "Unfortunately, the rabies virus can incubate six months to 2 years, and so as a general rule, when you have a really certain exposure from a known rabid animal, we generally recommend that those animals be destroyed, unfortunately," says Dr. Eugene Ulmanis of Animal Clinic of West Plains.
As of Friday, the Howell County Health Department says 32 people, including some children, who may have been exposed to the animals are starting rabies post-exposure treatment. They feel they have contacted everyone who came in contact with the animals. "It's really the best way to get protected, because once you actually start to show symptoms, you're in a tough state," says Ulmanis.
Public health investigators don't know for sure where the rabies exposure originated, but say the puppy's original owners, near the Moody area, witnessed two dead skunks in the area about four weeks prior to the puppy getting sick. Dr. Ulmanis says, "Apparently, the dogs had killed two skunks, according to the owner that was in, because we did vaccinate the owner's other dogs, so I actually did talk to the owner of the original incident yesterday." Officials think the mother dog may have killed a rabid skunk, then licked her puppies to pass on the deadly virus.
The rabies case happens to coincide with low cost annual rabies vaccine events in Howell County. Dr. Ulmanis' clinic charges 7 dollars.
If an animal has already been exposed to rabies, a vaccine won't help. Preventive rabies vaccine clinics, with shots at reduced prices, are being held at multiple locations in Howell County this weekend, as they are each year.