There have been two confirmed animal rabies cases in Cole County this year, and health officials want to remind residents of what they need to do to protect themselves from the disease.
Rabies is contagious and can be a fatal viral disease for dogs and other mammals that causes madness and convulsions, transmissible through their saliva to humans.
“We’ve had people call us where they found bats in their homes and let them go,” said Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell. “We need them to keep the bats because the only way to find out if they have the disease is to test their brains.”
“Unlike some other viruses that are 98.9 percent survivable, rabies is probably 99.9 percent fatal,” Campbell added. “If you have a bat in your home and you don’t know if it bit you, you need to have it tested.”
Campbell said they recommend if residents catch a bat, they put it in a coffee can and then put it in a freezer. Other tips the department offers on rabies:
• For prevention, you should keep all pets up to date on rabies vaccinations and stay away from wildlife.
• Know the signs of rabies in animals, including general sickness, problems swallowing, excessive drool or saliva, aggressiveness, a bat that is on the ground, and more.
• If you think you have been exposed, seek medical care, and talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need post-exposure prophylaxis.
• Call your local animal control officer for help with removing stray or sick animals. For Cole County, the animal control officer is based with the sheriff’s department. They can be reached by calling 573-634-9160.
• In the event of exposure, the head of animals can be submitted to the Cole County Health Department for rabies testing. Call 573-636-2181 for information on testing samples.
Chezney Schulte, the county health department’s communicable diseases coordinator, said anyone bringing samples into the Cole County Health Department, located at 3400 W. Truman Blvd., should call the department first for instructions at 573-636-2181. Animals should be placed in sealed plastic bags (zip-lock style) or containers (such as Tupperware). Whole animals (small rodents or bats) should be no larger than the palm of a person’s hand.
If a person needs assistance removing the head of a larger animal, they should contact a local veterinarian’s office, she said.