New rules for rabies-exposed pets
Published 7:22 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Beaufort County is loosening restrictions on the management of pets that may have been exposed to rabies.
Beaufort County Health Department Director Jim Madson updated commissioners about the changes at their Nov. 7 meeting. Madson told commissioners the new guidelines offered by the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians will be less burdensome for pet and pet owners.
“It means we don’t have to keep an animal as long as we used to,” Madson said. “(The benefit) is more for the citizens that have a dog in that situation, because they’re the ones paying the cost.”
In the past, the cost could be up to $3,000 for the six-month quarantine of an unvaccinated animal. The other choice would have been to put the animal down, Madson said.
While the state statute regarding rabies post-exposure treatment was updated in 2000, it was originally written in 1931, and according to the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians, the recommendations were too strict for the animals. The new recommendations have also been adopted by the Centers for Disease Control, and they are gradually being accepted across the state, according to Madson.
“It’s becoming more and more in place through the counties. There are other counties that have done it but not a whole bunch yet,” Madson said.
Madson said the looser guidelines have already benefited one Beaufort County pet: a dog that got into a fight with a raccoon. Prior to this week, the dog would have been quarantined for six months, but instead was revaccinated and released to the owner, who is now required to keep the dog under observation for 45 days.
Madson said Beaufort County definitely has rabies cases: of 17 suspected cases this year, 15 tested positive. He said most of the cases are confined to fox, bat and raccoon.
During the meeting, Commissioner Frankie Waters asked Madson if any of those rabies cases were coyotes because, he said, “We’ve got a lot of them running around, and none of them have been to the vet.”
Madson said there had been no coyotes tested for rabies this year.
Changes to treatment are as follows:
- Animal with current vaccinations: New guidelines require a rabies booster shot within 96 hours of exposure and owner observation of the animal for 45 days. Previously, owner observation was not required.
- Unvaccinated animals: Previously, an animal would have been euthanized or have had immediate vaccination and six months’ quarantine at the owner’s expense. Now, euthanasia is still an option, but so is immediate vet care and vaccination within 96 hours, followed by four months’ quarantine.
- Animals with documentation of an overdue vaccination: Previously, euthanasia or immediate vaccination and six months’ quarantine were the options. In this case, euthanasia is now not applicable; instead, immediate vet care with vaccination must be received within 96 hours, and the owner will be required to keep the animal under observation for 45 days.
- Animals with no documentation of an overdue vaccination: Again, previous guidelines recommended euthanasia or immediate vaccination and six months’ quarantine. Now, NAPHV recommends immediate vet care with vaccination must be received within 96 hours, and the owner will be required to keep the animal under observation for 45 days or prospective serologic monitoring, which means testing for rabies antibodies over a period of time.
Madson said the new guidelines go into effect immediately.