Missouri Sees Increase In Animal Rabies Cases

Sep 27, 2009

Kansas City, MO – Missouri is seeing an unusually high number of animals with rabies.

The State's department of health has identified 55 wild animals with the disease this year, already surpassing last year's total.

Dr. Howard Pue is a veterinarian with the state and says it's important for people to vaccinate their pets, as well as seek medical treatment if bitten by a wild or stray animal.

He says there are highly effective anti-rabies shots that can combat the disease after a possible exposure.

Nationwide, about 40,000 people receive the shots each year.

Still, Dr. Pue says one to two people die from the rabies annually - he says those situations are generally the result of bites from bats.

"Normally when you're bitten by let's say, a stray dog or fox or coyote or something like that, you know you've been bitten," Dr. Pue said. "Whereas you might not know you've been bitten by a bat because sometimes the wound can be teeny, very small."

Last year, a Missouri man died from rabies after being bitten by a bat and not seeking treatment.

Dr. Pue says a very small percentage of bats actually have rabies, but that most of the identified cases in Missouri this year were in either bats or skunks.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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