On June 11, 2015, the Bexar County Animal Control informed the public that several animals in the area between Culebra Rd. and Military Dr. outside of 1604 have tested positive for Rabies. There have been skunks, bats, and one kitten. The public now needs to be more vigilant and report any suspicious animals. Pets should be kept current on not only the Rabies, but all necessary vaccines.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by the rabies virus. The virus infects the brain and ultimately leads to death. After being bitten by a rabid animal, the virus is deposited in the muscle and subcutaneous tissue. For most of the incubation period (1-3 months), the virus stays close to the exposed site. The virus then travels through peripheral nerves to the brain and from there, to nearly all parts of the body.
Any mammal, including humans, can spread rabies. Rabies is most often transmitted via the saliva of bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Stray dogs and cats will also carry and spread the disease. The virus has also been found in cows, ferrets, and horses.
What are Risk Factors for Rabies?
Any activity that brings someone in contact with possible rabid animals, such as veterinary personnel or rescues as well as outdoor activities near bats and other possible rabid animals, such as camping and hunting trips, all increase one’s risk of getting infected with rabies.
What are the Symptoms and Signs?
Symptoms can occur as fast as within the first week of the infection.
The early symptoms of rabies are very generalized and include weakness, fever, and headaches. Without a history of a potential exposure to a rabid animal, these symptoms would not raise the suspicion of rabies as they are very similar to the common flu.
The disease can take two forms:
1. Paralytic Rabies: This covers about 20% of cases. The patient’s muscles slowly get paralyzed. This usually quickly ends in coma and death.
2. Furious Rabies: This is the most common form covering about 80% of cases. Anxiety and confusion begins. The patient is often overly active. Encephalitis, causing hallucinations, confusion, and coma, accompanied with hypersalivation, hydrophobia (fear and avoidance of water), and difficulty swallowing quickly follow.
Once the clinical signs of either form of rabies occur, the outcome is nearly always 100% fatal.
Although treatments exist for human cases, they involve a lengthy series of painful injections. There is no known treatment for pets and other animals. The best way to fight the disease is through prevention.
Rabies prevention is mostly about good pet care and outdoor behavior. Vaccinate pets and keep them away from wild and outdoor animals. Don’t approach wild animals. Keep bats out of the home, and stay away from areas with bats, such as caves.
Be aware of stray dogs and cats with unusual behavior.