Between 16,000-39,000 people are treated each year for possible exposure to rabies from animal bites. In recent weeks there have been two reports of rabies in south central Kentucky. One of those was in a bat in Edmonson County, another case was in a racoon in Hopkinsville.
Baron the dog is getting his annual rabies vaccination.
"And that's it. It's much easier to prevent than it is to have treatment afterwards," said Dr. Vicky McGrath, of All Creatures Hospital.
Rabies can cause seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis and is almost always fatal. While there have been no human cases of rabies, as of September 15th there have been 20 cases in animals in Kentucky.
"Have your pet vaccinated. Rabies vaccination is very very safe, very effective, and very inexpensive. Plus there is a law in our state for dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies," said McGrath.
Having your pet vaccinated is probably the best way to avoid exposure to rabies. However if you do come in contact with an animal in the wild there are some things you should keep in mind.
"The most important thing to remember is to not panic. A lot of people get really scared and panic and that just makes the situation worse. If you are bitten by an animal and you have concerns, contact your primary care physician and see what they recommend about first aid," said Chip Krause, the Public Health Services Coordinator for the Barren River District Health Department.
If a human is bitten or comes in contact with the saliva of an animal suspected to have rabies there is a series of post exposure shots given over a period of time.
"Initially you'll get one injection of the rabies immune globulen. This is to give you immediate protection and you'll also get one rabies vaccine at that time. You will receive four more. So it's approximately six shots given over a period of 28 days," said Tina Loy, a communicable disease nurse with the Barren River District Health Department.
For more information on rabies and rabies prevention from Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Barren River Health Department check out chfs.ky.gov/dph/epi/rabies.htm and www.barrenriverhealth.org.