Rabies vaccination clinic provides a shot of safety

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When Cathy Kuhl’s husband was outside their residence with their granddaughter and Weimaraner, he saw something dark moving in the sky out of the corner of his eye.

Before he knew it, the dog jumped up to grab a bat flying toward them. Kuhl’s husband noticed the bat flew erratically low, a sign that it could be sick. He killed the animal and took it to the MSU Extension office where they discovered it was rabid.

Stories like this prompted Jenn Donovan, a public health nurse, Superior resident Diane Magone and Kuhl to organize a vaccination clinic in Superior.

On Saturday, July 27, 31 residents from Mineral County lined up at the Superior Masonic Temple to get their pets vaccinated by Dr. Wolff, a veterinarian out of Plains. Dr. Wolff vaccinated 50 dogs and cats and gave 40 rabies immunizations.

While Kuhl’s Weimaraner was vaccinated at the time of the bat incident, she says the dog would have been euthanized if it hadn’t been.

“I know people in town years ago who had young lab pups in a kennel and found a sick bat,” Kuhl said.

She said all of the puppies were euthanized after the exposure to prevent its spread.

But after the vaccination clinic, Kuhl hopes more pets in the county will be vaccinated and accidents like this can be prevented.

“If you’re gonna be a responsible pet owner, it’s good to have them vaccinated,” Kuhl said.

Donovan suggested that the county hold a vaccination clinic, so residents don’t have to travel to the closest veterinarian clinic in Plains.

“Following recommended pet vaccinations helps keep our pets healthy, but also reduces the risk that our pets could pass on a disease like rabies to a human,” Donovan says. “Healthy pets keep our community healthy.”

The Mineral County Health Department investigated 36 potential exposures to rabies in the past two years and treatment was recommended for five of those individuals, Donovan said.

“We would like this awareness to go beyond just the pet owners so our community as a whole understands the need to support vaccines for our pets to keep us safe,” Donovan said.

There were 17 animals submitted for testing in 2018 that tested positive for rabies and 223 people were provided treatment for potential exposure.

“If an animal cannot be located, observed or tested a person may need to undergo a series of shots to prevent rabies,” Donovan said.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease affecting all mammals that infects the central nervous systems through saliva. Signs and symptoms include sluggishness and confusion but can turn into irritable and aggressive. Infected animals may drool, froth at the mouth, stagger and have convulsions, according to the Montana Department of Livestock.

The virus can infect humans, however, there are only one to two deaths in the United States per year.

While there is no treatment for rabies, vaccinations are proven to be effective. Other ways to prevent the disease include ensuring booster vaccinations are up to date, keeping pets away from wild animals and reporting suspicious animals to animal control.

Domestic pets that are vaccinated and exposed to the disease are considered low risk and unvaccinated pets are considered higher risk.

After the successful Dr. Wolff’s successful vaccination clinic, Magone says they hope to hold another clinic next May.

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