The death of a Shelby County puppy is the first in more than two decades to be caused from rabies, health officials say.
The 3-month old puppy, a Great Pyrenees, had been adopted by a Shelby County family from a breed of puppies born in Spencer County.
Tony Millet, Environmental Supervisor and Public Information Officer at the North Central Health Department, said the puppy tested positive for rabies.
“What happened is that the owners had the dog and it was acting really strange and they took it to the vet, and it died at the vet’s office,” he said.
According to reports in The Spencer Magnet, when Spencer County Animal Control Officer Melvin Gore was contacted about the dog, he went to the residence where the parent dogs were located and quarantined those dogs, as well as some goats. He reported that none of the animals on the property had been vaccinated and that the owners said they had smelled skunks in the area recently.
“We don’t know the direct correlation of how it was contracted, but most likely, it had gotten involved with some kind of wild life, like a bat or something like that,” said Millet. At least eight people connected with the affected dog have been treated with a post-exposure rabies vaccine because rabies can also be transmitted through saliva.
Millet said that the NCDHD received the report about the incident on May 3 and worked with the Louisville Metro Health Department to assure that all persons exposed to the puppy were notified as well as quarantined or treated and have been cleared from having the rabies virus. Rabies notification signs have also been placed in the area where the incident occurred, he said.
Millet said it’s likely that the puppy had been bitten by a wild animal that was affected with rabies, most likely either a skunk or a bat, as those animals are the prime carriers of the disease, which is fatal to most animals and humans if not treated.
‘The health department posted signs in the area on Tuesday to notify residents of the discovery,” he said, adding that this is the first confirmed case of rabies in a domestic animal in Shelby County in 23 years.
Rabies is a virus that has a 100 percent fatality rate when left untreated in animals and humans, and that rabies is a preventable viral disease if proper care and animal vaccinations are kept up-to-date.
“Symptoms for rabies, are for the most part, strange acting, altered states, foaming at the mouth, lethargic, unbalanced, that kind of thing,” Millett said. “For humans, it’s a little bit different. They get unbalanced.”
Symptoms of rabies in humans include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, slight or partial paralysis, hydrophobia (fear of water) and hypersalivation (foaming).
Millet said there were about 20 cases of rabies around the state last year.
“I talked to the state rabies lab and they said this past year, there was fifteen positive rabies in bats, two in skunks, and two for dogs, and one in a cat,” he said.
He said that even though there weren’t many cases, it’s a serious situation if contracted, so vaccination is very important.
“It’s a hundred percent fatal unless he’s been vaccinated – it’s the same for humans,” he said. “So that’s why we say to report all dog bites. We haven’t really had that many cases of rabies in the state where people die from rabies. In third world countries, people die from rabies a lot. It’s state law to vaccinate all animals if they’re going to be in close contact with humans.”
The CDC and the health department recommend:
- All pets and close contact livestock be vaccinated by four (4) months of age.
- Do not feed wildlife or stray animals.
- Do not approach a wounded, strange acting wildlife or stray animal.
- Report all animal bites and any contact with bats to the health department.
- Contact animal control to remove all stray animals that maybe unvaccinated or ill.
For more information about the NCDHD’s rabies program at (502) 633-1243.