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Veterinary Health Alert Network
Rabies in Arkansas lives in skunks and bats, which are considered our reservoir species. And 2012 has been a very busy year for rabies. We already have more positive rabies cases in 2012 than our normal yearly average. Over the last 22 years, we have averaged 47 rabid animals per year, with an average of 33 skunks/year and 9 bats/year, plus the few other animals. So far this year, we have tested 58 rabid animals, including 52 skunks, 5 bats and 1 bull.
Part of the increase, we feel, has been due to a much warmer winter and increased wildlife activity earlier in the year than usual. We also have done a great deal of publicity, which always raises awareness and alerts citizens to submit more specimens than they might otherwise. Whenever we get an increase in rabies in a particular part of the state, the secondary effect from the publicity causes more submissions and hence somewhat falsely elevated numbers. In the last four years we had an average of 196 submissions in the first three months of the year, with an average of 10.5 positives in that time period. However, in 2012, we had 268 submissions and had 47 positives in the first three months!
We have a tremendous amount of data and information on our Health Department website, at http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/infectiousDisease/zoonoticDisease/Pages/Rabies.aspx. We have sections there for Maps and Data, Legislation (including the Rabies Control Act and Rules Pertaining to Rabies Control), Health Care Professionals and Frequently Asked Questions. Under Maps and Data, we have maps going back to 1990 showing where our rabies cases are in the state, as well as a constantly changing ‘current’ map. You can direct clients to this website as well as refer to it yourself to see where the rabies is within the state and where it is not, as well as what species of animals we are finding it in.
In 2011, we quarantined 90 dogs that were exposed to rabid skunks, as well as 18 cats (two of the cats were exposed to a rabid bat rather than a skunk). Of these, only 26 dogs were current on their rabies vaccinations (vaccination rate = 28.9%), and none of the cats. Our overall vaccination rate for dogs and cats was 24%. In comparison, so far in 2012, we already have 70 dogs and 32 + cats under quarantine. Of the dogs, 28 are current on rabies vaccination (40% vaccination rate) but none of the cats, so the overall rate is 27.4%. We also have had a couple of bulls and 4-5 horses exposed, none of which were vaccinated against rabies. What I find is that once we do a press release in an area, and lots of publicity, it does encourage some people to get their pets vaccinated, so the rates go up, thankfully. We're entering the traditional season for low cost rabies vaccination clinics and I want to thank every one of you that gives up your time and energy to help public health in this endeavor. I am always available to help with any questions or concerns about rabies, or any other zoonotic disease.