The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is collaborating with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) to sponsor Rabies Awareness Week 2019 during the week of September 23-29, in conjunction with World Rabies Day (https://rabiesalliance.org/world-rabies-day) on September 28, 2019.  Eastern Shore Health District officials and Eastern Shore Veterinarians urge residents to “Protect the Ones You Love. Vaccinate For Rabies.”   This important message is the focus of this year’s Rabies Awareness Week.

“Vaccinating companion animals, such as dogs and cats, against rabies for their protection as well as the protection of family members is very important,” said Virginia’s State Public Health Veterinarian, Julia MurphyFamilies with valuable livestock, like horses, should keep them vaccinated as well, because rabies is endemic on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and can occur year round.  According to Environmental Health Supervisor, Keith Privett, the Eastern Shore Health District has confirmed ten rabies cases so far this year, including seven raccoons, one dog, one cat, and one otter.  Last year there were 19 animals confirmed with rabies in Accomack and Northampton Counties combined.

“The rabies virus is shed in the saliva of animals sick with the virus, so any animal bite should be taken seriously,” said Privett.  “If an animal bites you, wash the wound immediately. Call your physician, local health department or animal control agency immediately.” Likewise, if a wild animal bites your pet, contact your veterinarian or local health department immediately. 

The Eastern Shore Health District strongly advises people take these steps to prevent families and pets from exposure to rabies:

  • Vaccinate all cats, dogs, ferrets, and valuable livestock against rabies and keep them up to date.
  • Avoid contact with and teach your children to keep a safe distance from all wild and stray animals.
  • Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs.
  • Report stray animals to your local animal control agency.
  • Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home and keep all outside trash in covered containers.
  • Confine your pets to your own property or walk them on a leash.
  • Report all animal bites to humans and pets to the local health department

During the month of January each year, cooperating Eastern Shore Veterinarians and the Eastern Shore Health District hold low-cost rabies clinics locally in order to provide access to residents with pets that may not otherwise be able to get their pets vaccinated.  However, it is critical not to let your pet’s rabies vaccination expire. State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of four months be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccines can be given as early as three months and one product is approved for kittens at eight weeks. Dog licenses are required throughout the state and some localities, such as Northampton County, require licenses for cats.  You may purchase your pets’ license from the local treasurer’s office by presenting a current rabies vaccination certificate.

For more information about rabies, log onto the Virginia Department of Health’s website at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/rabies/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

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