By Mike Steely
“People don’t think about rabies anymore but if you get bit and you’re not treated and you have rabies you are going to die,” said Ronnie Nease, Environmental Health Director for the Knox County Health Department.
Nease told The Focus last week that there have been five reported cases of rabies in animals in Tennessee so far this year. While none of these were in Knox County and haven’t been for several years the Health Department isn’t taking any chances.
On Saturday, May 7, from 2 until 4:30 p.m. Rabies Vaccination Clinics are being held at various schools. The charge is only $10 per animal and Saturday’s clinics are at Austin-East, Farragut, Powell, South-Doyle and West high schools; Gresham, Northwest and Whittle Springs middle schools; and elementary schools at Ball Camp, Beaumont, Glue Grass, Dogwood, East Knox, Halls, Inskip, Northwest, Rocky Hill, and Sunnyview.
On Saturday, May 14, the clinics will be held Bearden High School, Carter and Bearden Middle Schools, and the following elementary schools: Anderson, Brickey, Cedar Bluff, Chilhowee, Christenberry, Copper Ridge, Gibbs, Harden Valley, Karns, Mount Oliver, Norwood, Ritta and Shannondale.
Nease said that last year 3,748 animals were vaccinated at the yearly county clinics and that each clinic is staffed by 4 to 10 people, including a veterinarian.
He said all kinds of dogs are brought to the clinics and most are “outside” pets, often coming on leases or ropes. All pets must be restrained and cats should be in carriers or pillowcases, which is preferred because the vaccine can be given through the cloth. Dog owners with aggressive or uncontrollable pets are advised to keep their animals in the car and ask for assistance when registering.
Nease also said that rabies is more frequent in bats but added that dogs bitten by skunks are sometimes infected. He cautioned everyone about not attempting to care for injured wild animals because the animals will bite you in defense. If they run off then you should inquire about rabies shots, which are expensive and extensive.
Anyone who suspects they may have come in contact with the rabies virus, through a bite or saliva from an infected animal, should immediately wash the area for at least five minutes with soap and water and then seek medical care and treatment. Information on rabies can be found at www.cdc.gov/rabies/.
The efforts of the Health Department go back dozens of years. Nease said the most response usually comes from dog and cat owners at the clinics in Brickey, Gibbs, Halls and Carter Schools. He said that last year 193 people at Gibbs and 190 at Carter arrived with their pets for vaccination. He added that if there’s a line at 4:30 all the pets in line will be treated.
“We encourage everyone to take the time to protect their family by vaccinating pets against rabies,” he said.
Tennessee law requires all dogs and cats 3 months of age and older to be vaccinated. If untreated, death can occur within days of the onset of symptoms.