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Zoonotic Disease & Rabies – Dr. LeeAnn DuMars, DABVP

This month’s topic includes some information on zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are infectious agents that are spread from animals to humans or vice versa. Many know the most common zoonotic diseases – rabies, “ringworm” (which is a fungal infection not a parasite),  Toxoplasmosis, Cat Scratch Disease, Leptospirosis, etc. But many more diseases can be transmitted from pets, wildlife, and livestock/horses; albeit uncommon, it is important to be aware of the dangers and take appropriate precautions.

This month I would like to discuss rabies in more depth. Fresno County has had a much larger population of confirmed rabid bats this year than years past. Usually the bats have a seasonal die-off in August due to elevated environmental temperature; however, this year many more rabid bats were found in both September and October. I know of two incidents where people found floundering bats at Fashion Fair Mall and attempted to confine the bats. In both cases, the bats bit the humans and the humans had to undergo rabies exposure injections. The bats were out during the daylight hours and were floundering about – both huge warning signs of abnormal behavior.

The important message is to not handle bats at all – especially if they are acting erratically or are seen during daylight hours. Luckily, rabies is no longer very common in our pets – vaccination does a tremendous job in preventing this fatal disease if one of our pets is bitten by a rabid animal. Rabies can infect any warm-blooded animal and bats, skunks, raccoons are the primary hosts. It is still a huge problem in third world countries where dogs and cats are exposed to wildlife, lack vaccination and are allowed to roam as strays.

See the attached info sheet on “Rabies” – it is published from by Drs Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson from the Ontario Veterinary College of Public Health and Zoonoses. Please visit this website – it is an amazing compilation of zoonotic diseases with information for pet owners, veterinarians and medical doctors – with referenced and accurate data. There are also interesting articles monthly – recent ones include a commentary on “Dog Licking” and associated risks, an article on Baylis ascarids (roundworms) which are carried by raccoons and can be fatal if humans become infected; an article on a drug-resistant type of tuberculosis diagnosed in a dog, and many more informative and interesting tidbits……. Well – OK – maybe only interesting to us geeky scientific types….. but lots of good information and resources nonetheless!

Each month we will highlight one of the informational articles on a different zoonotic disease – next month is MRSA infections – and guess what – this may be something we pass on to our pets!