Low-cost vaccine clinic seeks to protect animals, humans from rabies

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Monday, April 22, 2013

— Here are some numbers that should scare you: Approximately 60 percent of dogs and 35 percent of cats that live in Rock County are vaccinated for rabies, according to the Rock County Health Department.

Based on animal population estimates, that means there are about 20,000 dogs and cats in Rock County that have not been vaccinated.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, pet owners will have a chance to change that at a low-cost vaccination clinic at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville.

The Rock County Health Department, Friends of Noah, Badger Veterinary Hospital and Zoetis, the rabies vaccine manufacturer, sponsor the event. The cost is $10 per animal.

The event is part of Rabies Awareness Week, said Lois Corwin, volunteer with Friends of Noah, the all-breed animal rescue group.

Organizers have bought billboards in low-income areas where people might not be able to afford the cost of a veterinary visit. Educational tables will be set up at area pet shops as well, Corwin said.

Many people, whatever their income, have no idea how important the rabies vaccine is to the health of their animals and their families, Corwin said.

There are an estimated 400 dog bites every year in Rock County.

“We really saw the need for this,” said Corwin. “Rabies is 100 percent preventable. And it is lethal to animals and fatal to humans.”

In 2004, a Milwaukee teen survived after an experimental treatment for rabies worked. Those results have be replicated but only in a very few cases.

Worldwide, about 55,000 people die from rabies, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, one to two people die from the disease each year, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. Death rates are low here because most people seek treatment after being bitten by an unvaccinated or unknown animal.

The CDC estimates that each year about 40,000 people go through the post-bite treatment each year.

Rock County Board of Supervisors Sandy Kraft is the chairwoman for the county’s board of health, and she thinks the rabies clinic provides a crucial service.

“It’s a public health risk,” Kraft said. “And it’s the law.”

Here’s something else to consider, Kraft said: If your animal is not vaccinated and bites someone, it has to be quarantined at a vet clinic, which can cost more than $700.

Kraft said the event was organized with safety in mind. Dogs must be on leashes and cats must be in carriers. Extra leashes and carriers will be available at the entrance to the fairgrounds.

Volunteers will ask dog owners if their pets tend to be skittish or aggressive. Those dogs will receive yellow ribbons and will be kept at least six feet away from other animals.

Cats and dogs will be treated in separate areas.

Last updated: 10:23 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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