Let’s Talk Rabies
Williamson County has seen a surge in reported rabies cases this year to date, with over 100 animals testing positive for this deadly disease. While Williamson County has always been an important area for rabies transmission, we surpassed all Texas counties in positive rabies cases in 2011! Most of the animals testing positive are bats and skunks, but we have found 1 cat, 1 dog, 2 raccoons, and 1 fox that tested positive in the last year). It is important that we review the basics of this disease in order to better protect both our animals and ourselves.
Rabies is typically transmitted through saliva from the bite of an infected animal. It can also be transmitted without a bite, through contact with infected saliva through open wounds or mucous membranes of the mouth and/or eyes. Bats and skunks are the most important reservoirs for rabies in our area, but any mammal of any age can have rabies. Infected skunks can exhibit abnormal behaviors such as being active during daylight hours, appearing to have no fear of humans or animals, being easy to approach, acting aggressively, or acting listless or sick.
Bite avoidance, animal bite reporting, and routine vaccinations are all important ways to minimize your pet’s chance of exposure. Do not feed or handle stray, wild or injured animals. They may bite! Immediately report animal bites to animal control or a health care professional. If the animal can be proven not to have rabies, bite victims will not need expensive post-exposure vaccinations.
Keep your pets currently vaccinated against rabies. Rabid animals can enter fenced yards, pet crates, doggie doors, pens, stalls, kennels and more. A puppy or kitten should receive their first rabies vaccination between 12 and 16 weeks of age, with a booster 12 months later. Local law allows for immunization at three-year intervals after two rabies vaccinations.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your local veterinarian or animal control officer. City of Georgetown Animal Control can be reached at 930-3592 during business hours or via the police dispatcher at 930-3510 after hours. Williamson County Animal Control can be reached at 943-1389.
Jensen Young, DVM