Michael F. Easley
Governor

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Carmen Hooker Odom
Secretary

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: January 10, 2007

  Contact: Debbie Crane

North Carolinians Urged to Vaccinate their Pets

RALEIGH – Last year 520 rabid animals were found in North Carolina. As a result, a countless number of unvaccinated cats and dogs had to be euthanized and many people had to undergo expensive preventive treatment for rabies. Experts with the North Carolina Division of Public Health are urging people to avoid these problems by vaccinating their pets against rabies.

“There is a simple, easy way to protect you, your family and your pets from this deadly disease,” said Carl Williams, who is a DPH veterinarian. “Get your pets vaccinated against rabies. As the New Year starts, now is the time to check and make sure that your pets are up-to-date on their rabies shots.”

There have already been 13 rabies cases identified in the first days of 2007. Most rabies cases in North Carolina occur in wild animals, particularly raccoons. Often these raccoons expose domestic animals like cats and dogs. If the domestic animal hasn’t been vaccinated against rabies, then state law requires its euthanization or quarantine. In many cases, humans are exposed to rabies, either through direct contact with a rabid wild animal or through contact with an unvaccinated pet. North Carolina doesn’t track the number of domestic animals that have be euthanized or humans that have to receive preventive vaccine as a result of this exposure, but based on the number of cases reported in North Carolina the number is significant. Last month 50 people in Wilmington had to receive preventative medical care after exposure to a rabid puppy.

Seventy-six North Carolina counties reported at least one rabid animal in 2006. Guilford County reported the most rabies cases with 37. Other counties with high numbers included Orange (26), Wake (23), Yadkin (23) and Cleveland (20).

Although raccoons are the most common rabid animal in North Carolina, other rabid animals were also reported in 2006, including 20 rabid cats and eight rabid dogs. There were also some unusual rabid animals reported last year. Buncombe County recorded the state’s first rabid ferret. Buncombe and Guilford Counties each reported a rabid coyote. Henderson and Davidson County each reported a rabid cow.
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that can infect all mammals, including humans. It is transmitted through contact with the saliva or nervous tissue of an infectious animal--usually through a bite. There is no post-exposure treatment for unvaccinated dogs and cats, and they are required to be destroyed or quarantined at the owner’s expense for six months. Vaccinated animals need to receive a booster shot within 72 hours of exposure.

Bats are also rabies carriers, and winter is a great time to bat proof your home. At this time of year most bats have either migrated south for the winter or are dormant. Bat proofing your home now will prevent the establishment of maternity colonies or roosts in your home this spring. If you find a bat in the living space of your home, where it may have come in contact with you, DO NOT release it out side. Contact animal control so that the animal may be collected for rabies testing. This may eliminate your need to receive rabies post exposure treatment.

Exposed or potentially exposed humans should receive immediate medical attention. Post-exposure rabies treatment, which is a series of shots, will prevent the disease. Once humans develop symptoms the disease is close to 100 percent fatal. There has only been one recorded instance of a human recovering after symptoms, and that person was significantly disabled as a result of the infection.

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Public Affairs Office
101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
(919)733-9190
FAX (919)733-7447

Debbie Crane
Director