Rabies cases increasing in SEMO and Arkansas

Rabies virus (Source: CDC)
Rabies virus (Source: CDC)

WILLIAMSVILLE, Mo. (AP/KAIT) - Concerns are being raised after four animals - three skunks and a horse - tested positive for rabies in southeast Missouri.

The Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic reports that all four cases have been confirmed since the start of the year.

Rabies cases are rare in the cold-weather months. The four cases this year equaled the January-February total in Missouri for the previous five years.

The rabid skunks were in Douglas, Howell and Ste. Genevieve counties.

Most recently, an American Quarter Horse from near Williamsville in Wayne County was first thought to have a muscle disease. After it died, it tested positive for rabies.

Dr. Gary Strickland at Jonesboro Family Pet Hospital says the virus that attacks the nervous system is dangerous to pets and people, but it is easily prevented.

"It can be passed to humans and again left untreated it will cause death," he said. "Most people, if they do keep their pets vaccinated they don't have to worry about that."

In Arkansas, 131 cases were confirmed in 2012, compared to 60 in 2011. As of March 4, 2013, 24 cases have been confirmed.

A.J. Hendershott with the Missouri Department of Conservation says there are signs that an animal could possibly be rabid.

"Most animals don't want to spend time around people. They're going to be scared and they're going to flee. If an animal doesn't have that instinct, that's the first sign that they're not behaving properly."

The last time a person in Missouri died from a rabies infection was in 2008, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.  The individual did not seek treatment following a bat bite.  Prior to 2008, the last time a person died from a reported infection was in 1959.

Click here for safety tips from the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services regarding rabies.

Jonesboro Police Department Animal Control and Northeast Arkansans for Animals (NAFA) will hold a rabies vaccination clinic Saturday, March 9, from 7:30 a.m. to noon at the Jonesboro Animal Control Shelter located at 6119 East Highland Drive.  The cost is $10.  Call NAFA at (870) 932-1955 for more information.

Information from: Daily American Republic, http://www.darnews.com

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.