For Immediate Release
March 26, 2012

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

Health Officials Warn of Increase in Rabies

Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) wants to remind the public to have their animals vaccinated against rabies by a veterinarian. With 13 animals testing positive for rabies in Kansas since Jan. 1, health officials here anticipate an increase in the number of rabid animals this year compared to last year.

The 13 rabid animals included four skunks, two bats, two horses, two cows, one cat, one coyote and one raccoon. None of the domestic animals were vaccinated against rabies.

“We have a significantly higher number of confirmed rabid animals this year, 13, compared to just four during the same time in 2011,” said KDHE State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Ingrid Garrison. Since 2007, there has been an average of 68 cases of rabid animals a year in Kansas.

Vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep. “People understand the importance of vaccinating dogs and cats against rabies but often forget about vaccinating horses,” said Dr. Garrison. “Although vaccination of all cattle and sheep is not practical, we encourage vaccination of valuable breeding stock and show animals.” Animals need to have periodic boosters of vaccine to maintain proper protection. Your city or county may have ordinances that require proof of rabies vaccination for your pet.

The risk for human exposure to rabies is real but preventable. Animal rabies is common in Kansas, and skunks are the animals most likely to have the disease. However, skunks can pass the virus to other animals, such as dogs, cats, cattle and horses. Prevention of human rabies depends on vaccinating domestic animals, eliminating human exposures to stray and wild animals, and providing exposed persons with prompt post-exposure rabies treatment.

“Vaccinating animals against rabies not only protects our pets, but our families as well,” said Dr. Garrison.

KDHE offers these tips to prevent rabies:

For more information about rabies, contact your veterinarian, local health department or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment at 1-877-427-7317.