Rabies Vaccination Urged in Michigan

The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) is urging residents to ensure their pets, livestock, and horses have been vaccinated against rabies. Rabies cases have reached an all-time high, with 169 animal cases this year compared to 49 animal cases in 2006.

Rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system of mammals, including humans. Skunks and bats are the main carriers of the virus in Michigan and both of these species are commonly found on farms and in urban areas. Rabies is a fatal disease most often transmitted via the bite of an infected animal.

"Vaccinating your pets and livestock is the first line of defense in combating this deadly disease," said Michigan State Veterinarian Steven Halstead, DVM. "A simple vaccination can mean the difference between life or death for your pets and other animals. If you suspect any domestic animal of having rabies, contact your local veterinarian immediately. Rabies-suspect wild animals should be reported to local animal control or law enforcement authorities."

State officials recommend the following to prevent rabies:
Never approach or handle wildlife.
Do not approach or handle unfamiliar dogs or cats.
Have dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses vaccinated against rabies by a veterinarian.
Consult your veterinarian about vaccinating sheep and cattle against rabies.

If you are bitten by a wild animal (especially a bat, skunk, raccoon, or fox) or a dog, cat, ferret, or farm animal, contact your 
physician, local animal control agency, and local health department.

An animal exposed to the rabies virus might not develop the disease for two weeks, up to many months. The rabies virus can be found in an animal’s saliva days before any obvious signs make their appearance. With this in mind, it is extremely important to take precautions when dealing with any wild or unfamiliar domestic animal.

Rabies is a reportable animal disease. If you suspect that a pet or farm animal has rabies, you must immediately contact your veterinarian or the state veterinarian. To report a suspected case of rabies, contact MDA’s Animal Industry Division at 517/373-1077.

For more information on rabies go to www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

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