The discovery of the first rabid opossum in 24 years has Lake County health officials worried that the potentially deadly virus has crossed to yet another species.
Frank Kellogg, director of environmental health, said the opossum probably was infected with raccoon rabies, which already has jumped to coyotes, skunks and groundhogs and is especially dangerous to humans and pets.
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You know, for years it was assumed that opossum were immune to the rabies virus. Their metabolism is was always thought to be too slow for the rabies to survive and be viable (Euthanizing injections work very poorly on opossums because of that.) About 8 years ago, the first verified case of the disease in opossums was documented. They remain rare as do cases with most rodents, swine, and deer. Any "road kill" should be approached with extreme caution. I always double glove when working with them and the bottom pair of gloves is always nitrile for the added protection agains incidental puncture.
I used to work in a lab testing animals for rabies. Opossums do contract rabies on rare occassions. The reason it is not prevalent in them is because they have so few nerve endings. My former boss told me about a study that was done and it took something like 400 times the amount of virus to infect an opossum than the amount required to infect a raccoon.
The rabies virus is not blood borne in the sense that exposure to the blood of an infected animal will not infect you with the virus. The virus is transmitted solely through saliva and exposure to nervous tissue (brain, spinal cord, etc). When an infected animal attacks another animal, the virus is passed from the saliva of the infected animal to the nerve endings of the animal being infected. The virus travels to the brain via the nerves and not the blood stream. So, handling the blood of an infected animal without gloves will not give you rabies. However, there are other diseases that animals can carry that are blood borne, so precautions should be taken. For the taxidermist, it is extremely important to be careful when skinning mammals. Your chance of exposure to the virus while skinning around the mouth area and when removing the skull is greatly increased. Freezing does not kill the virus...we used to freeze brain material from infected animals and we would thaw it out and make "positive" control samples from it.
As far as crossing the species barrier, the raccoon strain of rabies can infect any mammal. The reason its called a raccoon strain is because raccoons are the most common vectors of the virus, not because it only infects raccoons. There are dog strains, skunk strains, bat strains, etc. It is not uncommon to find a bat strain in an infected cat or a dog strain in a raccoon. Bats generally only have bat strains just by the nature of their existence...most any animal that attacks a bat will kill it. All strains of rabies are lethal, unless treated before syptoms develop.
Get a rabies vaccination. I got vaccinated in the 80's and it is still good to this day, although I still wear a pair of gloves when working on any suspicious animal.
... Not all doctors will order the Rabies Vac Series for you... no joke! It's that little liability thang! I had an ER doc tell me that the potential side effects of the Vacs were too great to even consider giving me the series. I was shocked and asked him, "would you say the same if I were your wife or your child?" He said, "yes." Unreal IMO considering Rabies is a death sentence! I was bitten to the bone by a bobcat in a region where Rabies is very prevalent. I was scared at that point because I knew that I had been potentially innoculated with the virus. I left the ER with a $200-$300 Tetenus(sp) shot. It took me 5 days to find an old local Doc to get me the drugs (I believe the window is 10 days?). I guess what I'm saying is, just don't get yourself in that position in the first place! Take that advise of wearing those Gloves! Be Safe!
The rabies vaccines are expensive. It is a series of 3 shots and our health dept is about the only place to get it. They charge like $150 per shot. If you have been vaccinated and are exposed (by a bite, etc.) you will most likely need to get a booster shot. I was vaccinated in 2001, but I have not had my titer checked since 2002. Some folks keep a sufficient titer for many years and some have to get boosters every couple of years. It depends on your immune system.
If you work with mammals, you really should consider getting vaccinated.
So did the rest of the family! We woke up in the middle of the night about two years ago with a bat in the house. Since I had caught it and let it go, we had to get the shots. The health department paid for the whole thing too. Since it is considered a public health risk we were covered. I ended up getting about ten shots altogether, my wife about eight and my two boys (ages about 4.5 and 1.5 at the time) each got about five. I'm still waiting for my rabies vaccination tag to come in the mail!
Getting vaccinated and getting biannual titer checks for subsequent boosters is very important IMO. It's also much cheaper!
My Post-exposure shots were $1200, and yes, had to be obtained from a Health Dept. There were 5 Rabies Vacs and a few HUGE Immunoglobulin shots. I'd highly recommend the Pre-exposure Vacs. :)
There has being rabi Coons reported in South Fla for the past few years.
Today an alert was extended to Miami and the Florida Keys.
aounr me there have been somewhere in the vicinity of 40 confirmed cases this summer. 18 in Guilford county this month, I believe. Do any of you think this may be the result of not trapping, and there being an excess of animals that used to be taken? Seems to me growing up that you only heard about rabies in the fall.
LL. I am curious. What were you doing to get close enoughto a bobcat to get bitten to the bone?
Let's just say my bulb wasn't too bright that day, or my brain was mental malfunctioning, or I was being stupid, or any other similar terminology. I knew better, but it happened...