On Saturday, July 23, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. the Washington County Health Department will be holding a rabies vaccination clinic at the Barlow Fairground Pavilion. This clinic is the second clinic for 2011 and marks the 10th year anniversary of these clinics being offered by the WCHD.
In 2001, the Washington County Health Department was the recipient of a small grant that helped fund educational activities in relation to the spread of rabies in raccoons. At that time, it was determined that, with the help of local veterinarians, the health department would begin offering low cost rabies vaccination clinics for dogs and cats. Although the grant funds have not been available after the first few years, WCHD recognized the value of continuing these clinics as long as it was able to find the local vets willing to donate their time to help with the clinics. Doctors Clyde Alloway, Bea Schooley, Roberta Haught, Lori Lutz, and Gwen McHenry have provided their services in the past few years. Thank you!
The rabies clinics have been held throughout Washington County in Barlow, Little Hocking, New Matamoras, Waterford, Newport, and Marietta. Over the past 10 years, we have averaged vaccination of 300 to 500 animals a year with the smallest clinic of six animals on a rainy day in Waterford to our largest clinic of over 350 animals at the Barlow Fairgrounds following the report of a rabid bat being found in the area in 2002.
Although Washington County has not reported any incidences of rabies in animals since 2009 at which time a positive bat was identified, it is important to continue to vaccinate pets against this disease which is almost always fatal. Three strains of rabies have been found in the State of Ohio in recent years. In 2010, 41 of 752 bats tested by the Ohio Department of Health Laboratory were rabid. Ohio's local health departments reported 54 people were bitten or otherwise potentially exposed to these bats and 50 of those individuals started rabies post-exposure treatment. In addition 15 of the rabid bats exposed 18 dogs, 16 of which were quarantined, one was euthanized and one lost to follow-up. Sixteen cats were exposed and of those, 10 were quarantined, four were euthanized, and two outcomes are unknown. Bat rabies is present throughout Ohio and household pets frequently are a conduit for human rabies exposure. Between 1995 and 2010, 31 of the 42 human fatalities from rabies in the U.S. were from bat-related rabies strains.
In humans, rabies treatment is effective only if a series of vaccinations are administered beginning within days of an exposure. For this reason, Ohio requires that all animal bites be reported to the Health Department within 24 hours. Animal bite victims should consult with their doctor and promptly report to the health department so that appropriate decisions can be made to either test or quarantine the biting animal; or treat the victim. In 2010, 67 animal bites were reported to WCHD. Nine animals (one dog, five cats, and three bats) were euthanized and specimens sent to the state laboratory for testing. Fortunately, none of these animals were positive for rabies.
Washington County residents can protect themselves from rabies by avoiding contact with wildlife and animals they do not know; vaccinating dogs and cats; calling a doctor if bitten; and calling a veterinarian if a domestic animal is exposed to a wild animal or shows unusual illness or behavior.
Once again, the next rabies vaccination clinic will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at the Barlow Fairgrounds. Dogs must be on a leash and cats in carriers. Cost of the vaccine is $7 per animal. For more information on this and future clinics, please call the Washington County Health Department at 374-2782.
Kathleen Meckstroth is executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.