Rabies cases on the rise in Missouri - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Rabies cases on the rise in Missouri

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By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The Missouri Department of Health has reported 55 cases of rabies in the past nine months, which is already more that what is typically reported in a full year.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says the populations of rabies carriers such as raccoons and skunks have increased, making them more vulnerable to the disease.

Veterinarian Greg Rodgers says the increased number of wild animals with rabies means pet owners should take extra precautions to protect themselves and their pets from the disease.

"Try to keep them from roaming," Rodgers said.  "Keep them to confined to your yard. Animals go out in the woods and roam around and you never know what they're going to come in contact with out there."

The Department of Conservation says not all animals are carriers, but pet owners should look out for certain animals in particular.

"Raccoons, skunks, and maybe a domestic dog. Bats also sometimes carry rabies," said biologist Bob Gillespie.

Dr. Rodgers says vaccinating your pet is the best way to prevent rabies.  But if an animal is exposed to the virus, you'll see warning signs quickly.

"Really weird behavior, maybe leading to seizures and ultimately to death because rabies in domestic animals and people is almost uniformly fatal," Dr. Rodgers said.

Dr. Rodgers also says keeping wild animals as pets greatly increases you and your domestic pet's risk of rabies.

"Our domestic animals, if they're infected, we're going to know. They're going to have symptoms and die eventually. Our wild animals have strains of rabies that they're adapted to without showing symptoms. So I never recommend any wild animal should be kept as a pet," he said.

Local health departments said they haven't noticed a large increase in rabies cases.  But they did say because of the increased numbers across the state, you should report any bites by wild animals and be tested for rabies.

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