POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Protect your pets! That's what residents in Randolph County are being told following an outbreak of rabies. Three cases of rabies have been detected in the last year in the Randolph County area. This is the most cases in one county for this time period in almost two decades, now animal owners are being encouraged to get their animals vaccinated which is something that is required by state law.
"This is a fatal disease. You're not going to know you have this disease until you're dying with it," said veterinarian Maenola Hardin.
After three positive tests, the county is taking steps to make everyone aware.
"The health department has a massive outreach program right now in the county we're mass distributing flyers and information about rabies and about rabies clinics that we have set up in the county," said Randolph County Department of Health Administrator Kathy Smith.
Hardin said there are many signs you can watch for in animals that could indicate rabies.
"If you see dogs or cats either acting aggressively or excessively friendly when they're usually not or if you see them drooling from the mouth, that can be a sign of rabies," said Hardin.
Hardin said the disease causes personality shifts in the infected animals.
"This disease affects the brain, and once it gets to the brain in the animal that's when it becomes contagious through the saliva," said Hardin.
Humans can get the disease from any infected animal and not just through bites you can also get it by coming into contact with saliva, but there is treatment available.
"If you know you've been exposed you can be treated and prevent the disease from happening. If you don't know you've been exposed this is a fatal situation," said Hardin.
Several people have been exposed and are undergoing treatment. Because of the severity of this disease, if you suspect an animal could be rabid that animal should be tested.
"To determine if they have it you have to send in a brain sample so these animals are euthanized and brain tissue is sent in to the state lab," said Hardin.
When we think about rabies a lot of want to automatically get our domesticated animals like dogs and cats vaccinated and while that is very important you should also know that other animals like cows and horses can contract this disease as well.
"A lot of our downer cows and sick horses people mistake for other diseases but that can be rabies," said Hardin.
This is also a concern for other counties in region 8 that are in close proximity to Randolph County.
There will be a vaccination clinic tomorrow at the Maynard Fire Station and on Saturday July 18th at the Ravenden Springs Fire Station where you can get your animals vaccinated. If you have horses or cattle you should contact your veterinarian to see what you should do. The cost for the vaccine is $10.