Years ago when a pet cat died of unknown causes, it seemed reasonable to follow the vet’s suggestion and have her tested for rabies.
Though it was unlikely rabies had caused her illness, it was still a relief to know conclusively — even if it was shocking when the lab technician left a message describing that the “brain tissue of the specimen” tested negative for the presence of rabies.
Having never dealt with rabies before, something about hearing a pet referred to as a specimen and more specifically the realization testing was done on brain tissue really caused the seriousness of the virus to click.
Particularly for those who regularly immunize, it becomes common place to minimize the seriousness of viruses and diseases over time, especially when they become more and more rare.
But rabies is one of those scary ones that can’t be forgotten.
Anyone who has ever had to face the fear they or someone they care about might have been exposed to rabies knows how terrifying it can be.
The first documented case of rabies in New Mexico for 2013 was announced Wednesday — found in an infected raccoon captured in Raton.
In 2012, there were 47 incidents of animal rabies statewide, including cases involving Curry County skunks.
That might not seem like a whole lot, but given how easily rabies can be passed from one animal to the next and the fact those were only the cases that were actually documented, it starts to make sense why disease officials track cases -- and why it’s so important to immunize against it.
Rabies is most commonly found in wild animals, such as raccoons, skunks, bats, coyotes and foxes, incidentally, animals which tend to scavenge and live on the fringes of human populations.
This becomes a problem considering it can be passed from animals to humans.
A virus that affects the central nervous system, it can take months to incubate, but inevitably rabies results in death, according to the Center for Disease Control.
It has been estimated that around the world, a human dies every 10 minutes from rabies.
Transmitted through the saliva, the virus is often spread through bites, though bites are not necessary to catch rabies.
Initially rabies seems flu-like; however things worsen quickly, with lovely conditions such as hallucinations, anxiety, insomnia, agitation, partial paralysis, excessive salivation and a fear of water.
If detected quickly enough, humans who have been diagnosed can be treated through a series of intramuscular shots.
Four doses of vaccine are recommended the first day, then again on the third, seventh and 14th days after infection and through aggressive treatment, it is possible for a human to survive.
For animals the news is worse and it is recommended that animals exposed to a rabid animal they be euthanized.
Living close to undeveloped lands as we do in our area, it is quite common for foxes, skunks and the like to be spotted sneaking into backyards to steal from pet dishes or to root through trash cans.
Those sightings are compounded by current drought, pushing even more wildlife into developed areas in search of food and water, which increases the likelihood of skirmishes with pets.
Quite frankly, rabies isn’t one of those optional things.
Luckily, rabies is preventable and humans and pets can be immunized easily enough.
Of course veterinarians can vaccinate pets against rabies and, for the brave or financially challenged, it is also possible to administer vaccinations to pets at home.
Either way, rabies vaccinations are one of those things that have to be a priority, especially given that making the choice not to vaccinate could result in the loss of a pet, or worse yet, extreme pain and the possible life of a human — it’s a no-brainer.
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:
email@example.com or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com