Rabies, Vaccines and the Bigger Picture

by Kimberly Wade

In case you missed it, the Washoe County Health District recently put out a notice that multiple bats infected with rabies were found in Washoe County. In one of the cases, four domestic pets came into contact with one of the rabid bats. It’s a situation no one wants to think about, and one that hasn’t happened in Washoe County in decades, but it’s time to remind people about the importance of vaccinating their pets and why it’s so important to everyone around you.

What You Need To Know

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through a bite. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. The virus infects the central nervous system, and many times, can be fatal.

In order to prevent it, you and your pet should be up to date on rabies vaccinations. Keep your pets away from wildlife. You don’t want to risk you or your pet getting bit. Rabies is transmitted through saliva (hence, a bite) and can expose you, or your pet, if it comes in contact with broken skin (open wound, scratches, etc).

According to Washoe County Regional Animal Services, bats reside in colonies, so it can be easy to pinpoint where the rabies is coming from. Right now, the cases are being seen throughout our region.

What Happens if My Pet is Exposed

In Nevada, it is the law that domestic pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) are up to date on rabies (as well as all other) vaccinations. If they are vaccinated and come in contact with a rabid bat, your pet could be quarantined for 45 days and must be immediately revaccinated. If they are not vaccinated, they could be quarantined for 120 days, or worse, euthanized. The owner is responsible for all costs involved.

Please, make sure your pets are up to date on vaccines. Washoe County Regional Animal Services offers a low-cost vaccine clinic on the first Tuesday of every month. You can call them at 775-353-8900 for specific vaccines offered. Nevada Humane Society will also be hosting vaccine clinics, in Reno, beginning this Saturday, September 3, on a walk in basis from 1pm to 3pm. These clinics will be held each Saturday thereafter at the same time. For more information on our clinic, please contact 775-856-2000 ext. 312.

Be Smart

It’s not easy to digest all of this. We understand that. But this is all preventable. And you do need to think of the bigger picture—you, your pets, your neighbors’ pets and others. Rabid bats are often unable to fly and can be found on the ground. If you see a sick or injured bat do not risk exposure by trying to rescue them. Instead contact Washoe County Regional Animal Services, 775-353-8900, or the Washoe County Health District, 775-785-4599. And please, get your pets vaccinated. Be smart when you take them outside. Be aware of your surroundings. You can keep your pet safe.

For more information on rabies, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html or for more on Nevada law regarding infectious diseases, visit http://www.leg.state.nv.us/ for NAC 441A.430.

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