Monday, May 3, 2010

Equine Rabies Reported in Mass.

Middleboro veterinarian confirms case of rabies in horse
State officials says rabies remains a low-level, constant threat to humans

By Alice C. Elwell
Enterprise correspondent
Posted Apr 30, 2010 @ 11:42 PM
Last update Apr 30, 2010 @ 11:44 PM

For the first time in his 34 years of practice, local veterinarian Bruce Chase has diagnosed a case of rabies in a horse.

The viral disease is common in dogs, cats and other predators but is rare in non-predatory animals such as horses. In Massachusetts, Chase said only three cases have been confirmed in the past 10 years.

Chase said he has notified his clients in the area that the risk of rabies may be higher this year.

“We still consider rabies a big part of public health concern,” Chase said.

The horse in question lived on a property in Freetown and had not been vaccinated. Chase tested it after seeing that it was acting uncharacteristically. The horse has been euthanized.

Freetown interim Town Administrator John F. Healey said the town’s new animal inspector will work to improve barn inspections and ensure that horses have up-to-date inoculations.

The state Department of Public Health investigated the case, diagnosed April 3. Officials concluded that it “does not suggest any elevated risk in the area,” DPH spokeswoman Jennifer Manley said in an e-mail to The Enterprise.

“Rabies remains a low level but constant threat to all pets, livestock and people in Massachusetts,” she said.

The horse, she said, had been exposed to a rabid skunk.

Rabies is most often transmitted through the bite or scratch of a rabid animal. The disease infects the central nervous system, causing encephalitis and ultimately death.

Vaccination has drastically decreased the number of rabies cases in domestic animals since an outbreak in 1992. It is still prevalent in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and woodchucks.

No comments: