CDC releases report on shelter rabies case

A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the need for routine rabies vaccinations of companion animals.

In the report, "Public Health Response to a Rabid Dog in an Animal Shelter --- North Dakota and Minnesota, 2010," the CDC describes the case of a shelter dog that was found to have rabies – a full week after it had been placed with a foster family.

The dog was found with another dog and both were brought to a shelter in Grand Forks, N.D. on March 9, the report says. The larger of the two dogs was aggressive and was eventually euthanized after five days of observation. The other dog ("dog A") was placed in a foster home on March 20.

"Five days later, the dog was vomiting and had loss of balance," the report says. "On March 27, the family returned the dog to the shelter, where it was examined by a veterinarian, who noted hyperesthesia, tremors, ataxia, and dilated pupils. Because the differential diagnosis included canine distemper and rabies, the dog was euthanized the same day, and the brain was sent to the state veterinary diagnostic laboratory for testing. Three days later, the laboratory reported that a fluorescent antibody test was positive for rabies virus. CDC confirmed the result and characterized the virus as a North Central skunk rabies virus variant."

As a result of this incident, 21 people had to receive post-exposure prophylaxis, and 36 dogs were euthanized. The shelter instructs employees to prevent contact between animals, but the employees could not verify that this was the case, the CDC said.

"All 25 dogs remaining in the shelter were euthanized," the report says. "Adoption and claimed pet records were used to identify 37 other dogs that had been in the shelter during March 9--20, including 31 in North Dakota, five in Minnesota, and one in Michigan. Among those dogs, 12 were up-to-date on rabies vaccination, including one in Minnesota and one in Michigan. Of the 25 dogs without documented rabies vaccination, the owners of 11 opted to euthanize them, and the owners of 13 decided to confine their dogs for 6 months of observation. One dog in North Dakota was unintentionally killed before a decision was made. All euthanized dogs tested negative for rabies."

In an editorial note at the end of the report, the CDC emphasized the importance of rabies vaccinations, as well as keeping animals without vaccination documentation separate from others in shelter situations to prevent needless euthanasias.


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