The Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) will be conducting its annual Low-Cost Rabies Immunization Clinics on Saturdays in June for the the program's 22nd consecutive year.
"As in previous years, these clinics are located throughout the county in order to ensure that resident pet owners have access to this disease prevention service," said Jessica Willingham, communications assistant for the Montgomery County Office of Communications.
The 2013 Annual Rabies Clinic locations, dates and times are:
Abington Recycling Center, Florey Lane (off of Easton Road), Abington
9 – 11 a.m.
Collegeville Community Park, Fourth and Park avenues, Collegeville
9 – 11 a.m.
Encore Experiences at Harleysville on Alumni Avenue (off of Main Street), Harleysville
9 – 11 a.m.
Burnside Oakland Park, Burnside Avenue and Oakland Drive, West Norriton
9 – 11 a.m.
While there have so far been zero cases reported to the Department of Health in Montgomery County, the clinics aim to keep the rates low.
"With the arrival of warm weather, more residents will be outside with their pets walking or hiking on trails and in parks," said Willingham. "These activities could place county residents at a higher risk of exposure to wild animals and/or stray domestic animals."
The Department of Health said that many county residents are skipping out on the important vaccines necessary for their pets.
"When reviewing the 1,569 animal bites reported to Montgomery County in 2012, 1,104 were animal-to-human, 158 were animal-to-animal and an additional 307 were domestic animals with a wound of unknown origin that was presumed to be caused by a suspected rabid animal," said the department's report. "Of the domestic animals involved in human biting incidents, 77 percent of cats and 49 percent of dogs were either unvaccinated or not up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations."
According to the department, there are a few FAQs that can help area residents stay safe, as they released below:
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It can affect all mammals, including humans. It is usually transmitted to humans via the saliva of an infected animal. Rabies is a fatal disease once symptoms appear.
How is rabies spread?
Rabies is spread most often through the bite of a rabid animal. It can also be spread through a scratch from a rabid animal that breaks the skin or through exposure of an open wound or mucous membrane (eye, nose, or mouth) to saliva from a rabid animal. In Montgomery County, rabies has been found in raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, groundhogs, beavers, steer, cats, and dogs.
Is rabies a problem in Pennsylvania?
Rabies continues to be a significant public health problem in the Commonwealth. Since the year 2000, between 350 and 500 animals are annually confirmed in the laboratory to have rabies. In 2010, 53% of the animal rabies cases were raccoons, followed by skunks (14%), cats (14%), bats (7%), and foxes (6%). In contrast to the situation in animals, human rabies in Pennsylvania is rare. The last diagnosed human case in the Commonwealth was in 1984.
All cats and dogs three months of age and older must be vaccinated against rabies. Pennsylvania State Law and the Montgomery County Public Health Code require this.
Vaccinating domestic animals is an important way to prevent rabies transmission from wildlife animal reservoirs to the human population.
What should I do if an animal bites me?
The first step in rabies prevention is to immediately wash the wound with plenty of soap and warm water, and then promptly seek medical care. If the circumstances of the exposure warrant, human rabies vaccine may be prescribed. The vaccine is a series of four shots given in the arm (or thigh for small children) on days 0, 3, 7, and 14 after presentation to the health care provider. Rabies immune globulin is also given along with the vaccine on day zero. Rabies vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease after an exposure, if given before any symptoms develop.
The recommended precautions to prevent animal bites and possible rabies risk are:
- Do not feed, befriend, handle, or try to make pets of wild animals or stray domestic animals. Wild animals should not be handled or kept as pets.
- Vaccinate domestic dogs, cats, ferrets, and selected livestock according to your veterinarian’s recommendations.
- Obey animal control ordinances, particularly not allowing domestic animals to run at large. All animals should be restrained and leashed when in public.
- If bitten by a wild or domestic animal, immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention from a doctor or hospital emergency room.
- After receiving appropriate medical care, contact the Montgomery County Health Department so that they can investigate whether post-exposure rabies injections are required and provide the appropriate recommendation to the physician.
For more information on rabies and low-cost clinics throughout the county, visit the Montgomery County Department of Health's website here.