Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 11, 2010

Rabies found in unlikely animal — a miniature horse

TAZEWELL, Va. — The Tazewell County Health Department has received confirmation of the area’s eighth rabid animal this year after a miniature horse from the Goose Greek Estates area of North Tazewell tested positive for the disease Thursday.

According to Brian Stanley, environmental health manager of the Cumberland Plateau Health District, a local veterinarian notified the Health Department that the miniature horse died late in the evening on Friday, Dec. 3 or early morning on Saturday, Dec. 4, with possible signs and symptoms of rabies infection.

The health department is currently investigating any incidents of humans or other animals exposed to the virus as well as how the horse contacted the virus in the first place.

Anyone living in the area is asked to observe their pets and livestock for any wounds or strange behavior. If wounds or strange behavior is observed, the animal needs to be examined by a veterinarian immediately to determine if the animal is exhibiting signs of the rabies virus.

Robert Parker, a public information officer with the Virginia Department of Health, said he was not familiar with any previous cases of rabies in miniature horses but that rabies within livestock is common.

“Rabies can occur in any mammal,” Parker said. “It’s most common in foxes, raccoons and skunks. I’ve never heard of a case in a miniature horse before, but that’s because miniature horses are less common. Rabies, however is not.”

Parker said there are rabies vaccinations available for livestock, though many livestock owners do not get them.

“There is a vaccine available for livestock, though it’s not required by law, as it is for cats, dogs and ferrets,” Parker said. “Owners of livestock should consider getting these vaccinations for their animals. We have been trying to do some outreach with the agriculture community to let them know what is available to them because rabies prevention is less known about in that community.”

According to Parker, livestock that has been infected with rabies will behave in the same was as household pets or wildlife that have been infected.

“Any mammal that gets rabies has the same symptoms of staggering, delirium, hallucinations, high fever and loss of balance,” Parker said. “Foaming of the mouth or salivating will not occur until the disease is quite advanced.”

Parker said the last confirmed livestock rabies case in the Cumberland Plateau Health District was a horse in Russell County in 2003. In 2010, the state of Virginia had nine confirmed cases of rabies in livestock while there were 10 confirmed cases statewide in 2009.

Dr. John Dreyzehner, health director for the Cumberland Plateau Health District, said the incident involving the horse showed how important it is for pets and livestock to have their rabies vaccinations.

“This is an unfortunate situation,” Dreyzehner said. “This underscores how important it is that we vaccinate our valued animals against the rabies virus. Rabies is a fatal disease. It can be prevented with vaccinations prior to symptoms developing, but once symptoms begin, it cannot be cured.”

Most recently in Tazewell County, a rabid skunk was confirmed in the Burkes Garden, Va. area leading to the euthanization of two puppies exposed to the skunk.

There have been six confirmed cases of rabies in Mercer County this year, the most recent involving a long-haired black cat that exposed several people in a Princeton neighborhood.

For more information concerning rabies, visit the Virginia Department of Health's Rabies Control and Prevention web site at www.vdh.virginia.gov/epi/rabies or call the Tazewell County Health Department at 276-988-5585.

To report any other suspicious animal please contact the Tazewell County Health Department at 276-988-5585 or the Tazewell County Animal Control Office at 276-988-4160.

— Contact Kate Coil at

kcoil@bdtonline.com

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