Letter: Get Your Pets Inoculated
To the Editor:
Mid-afternoon on Mother’s Day, our Bernese mountain dog, Winslow, faced off eight feet from a very sick raccoon that was hissing, wheezing and staggering slowly. The dog had broken his lead, which was within safe reach and the confrontation ended without contact. The Hanover police immediately sent Officer Jeff Shepard, who dispatched the raccoon, retrieved it and ensured its delivery to the state Department of Health. Within 36 hours, the department reported that the animal had tested positive for rabies. Our veterinarian, Tom Heitzman of the Lyme Veterinary Hospital, instructed us in the Centers for Disease Control protocol for a dog previously vaccinated for rabies having this form of exposure. It includes a booster vaccination regardless of how recent the annual vaccine was given and the reassurance that observation by the owner for the next six months was the only other CDC requirement.
There are four cases of recovery from rabies in humans reported in the medical literature between 1972 and 2011. Death in humans from the two forms of the illness, furious rabies and paralytic rabies, is virtually guaranteed following an incubation period that averages one to two months but can range from weeks to years after a bite through the skin or the exposure of mucous membranes to infectious saliva.
Please have your pets inoculated for rabies; the vaccine is reported to approach complete protection in all animals pretreated by veterinary standards, according to the state Department of Health.
We are grateful to the Hanover police, our veterinarian and the state Department of Health for their quick responses in handling this extremely dangerous situation — most of all to Officer Shepard for efficiently managing the situation at our home.
Skip Jenkyn, M.D.