Rabies In Howell County, Missouri — 32 People Exposed, 8 Dogs Euthanized So Far

Howell County, Missouri, is seeing its first rabies case involving dogs. Due to an issue with a 6- to 8-week-old puppy, several people have been exposed to rabies.

Rabies is one of those things you hear about in movies but rarely see first-hand, in real life. Well, that’s because — generally — owners get their pets’ mandatory shots. However, for a case in Howell County, Missouri, that wasn’t the protocol.

According to Ozarks First — in West Plains, Missouri — Howell County Health Department confirmed its first rabies case of 2016 to the Missouri State Public Health Lab. Department officials mentioned that the “rabid” puppy became ill and died. However, before its death, the puppy was exposed to 32 people, as reports the source. Yet, along with those people, the puppy’s mother, five littermates, and two other dogs were also exposed. The animals were euthanized due to potential rabies contraction.

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The West Plains Daily Quill reported that the puppy had been separated from its litter and placed with an adopted family, prior any vaccinations or shots. A week later, the puppy died and was taken to a veterinarian who conducted an exam to determine the cause of death. The source reported that rabies was the rendered cause. The source also states that one other puppy from the litter was adopted as well. However, the agency located the animal and had it brought back into the facility for euthanization.

The source states that none of the aforementioned animals were current on rabies vaccinations. Thus, the reported actions had to be taken to prevent a similar exposure. Howell County Health Department’s environmental public health supervisor, Justin Frazier, mentioned that the actions had to be taken quickly. Frazier noted that, if they don’t act in a timely manner to these types of situations — though rare — they run the risk of the exposed person succumbing to the rabies virus. The Quill mentions as follows regarding treatment, if bitten.

“Prophylactic shots for rabies are most effective if given within 10 days of exposure. Priority thus far has been given to those who are approaching that 10 days, though individuals who were exposed longer than 10 days ago are still encouraged to get the shots.”

The source notes that Frazier expressed his concern for the rabies incident by saying, “We never want to see anyone go through these situations. But if it had to happen … we’ve got these clinics. This is a good time to raise awareness.”

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Howell County has experienced rabies cases in previous years. However, they involved skunks and one cat. In case you’re uncertain about the contractual nature of rabies, the source notes as follows.

“Although rabies is transmitted to humans almost entirely through bites from rabid animals, contamination of open wounds or mucous membranes with saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal could potentially constitute an exposure. It is important to remember that personal pets should not be handled without protection directly after being exposed to wildlife due to the potential for carrying residual saliva from an infected animal.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that rabies is 100 percent preventable. Yet, if someone contracts rabies, general symptoms are “fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort,” as notes the government agency. But, as the disease progresses, specific symptoms start to show themselves as in the following list:

  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • slight or partial paralysis
  • excitation
  • hallucinations
  • agitation
  • hypersalivation (increase in saliva)
  • difficulty swallowing
  • and hydrophobia (fear of water)

The source mentions that rabies damages the nervous system. And within days of the aforementioned specific, onset symptoms, the source states that death will usually occur. However, it can take months before these symptoms to show up.

Nevertheless, what are your thoughts regarding the rabies exposure in Howell County, Missouri? Feel free to express them in the comments below.

[Photo by Vadim Ghirda/AP Images]