Cape Cod Times

April 8, 2007

Rabies vaccines urged for pets

By K.C. Myers

SOUTH YARMOUTH—As a man lay in a coma in a New Hampshire hospital with one of the first cases of rabies in New England in years, the Cape Cod's Rabies Task Force yesterday offered half-price ($10) rabies vaccines at clinics from Plymouth to Provincetown.

"Rabies is fatal," said Dr. Tom Burns, president of the Cape Cod Veterinary Medical Association. ''Our role as veterinarians is not just to protect animals, but the public health."

Rabies has been present on Cape Cod since at least 2004.

Burns, who accepted a citation from Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod honoring the work of Massachusetts veterinarians trying to control rabies, urged Cape pet and livestock owners to vaccinate their animals. He said animals exposed to the disease must be quarantined for six months or euthanized to test for rabies.

In 2005, 70 Cape cats were euthanized after being bitten by wild animals but none had rabies, Burns said.

Cats are the fourth most likely animal to contract the disease, after raccoons, skunks and bats, he said. Yet only an estimated one-third of Cape cats have received the vaccine, according to Burns.

As the case of a 40-year-old roofer from Seabrook, N.H., illustrates, rabies poses a significant public health threat.

According to The Associated Press, Andrew Eaton was working on a roof about three months ago, when he thought he was bitten by a bee.

But he became ill, unable to swallow and had trouble speaking, according to the AP. It's now believed he was bitten by a rabid bat.

Eaton was placed in a medically induced coma at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where he will be treated with an experimental "drug cocktail."

Since 2000, there have been 24 reported cases of rabies in the United States and all but one proved fatal, New Hampshire Health and Human Resources Commissioner John Stephen told the AP.

A 15-year-old girl from Wisconsin survived in 2004 following an experimental treatment now being attempted on the New Hampshire man.

This article © Copyright 2007 Cape Cod Times