Officials respond to Marshall rabies outbreak

Marshall, Alaska (Screenshot from Google Earth)

A small rabies outbreak in Marshall is officially under control. Tribal Administrator Nick Andrew Jr. says that the community hasn’t seen any animals exhibiting symptoms in about two weeks. Marshall got the situation under control last week by focusing on the community’s stray dogs.

“The stray dog situation has been handled,” said Andrew. “There’s no strays in the village, and we’re hoping that we’ve got this situation under control.”

Andrew issued a “Rabies Alert” for the village on Facebook last Tuesday after a dog and a fox tested positive for the virus. Foxes are common carriers of rabies, and their population is strong in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta this year. Last April, the mayor’s own dog was bitten by a fox and had to be put down.

“In the community of Marshall they’ve handled their response really well,” said Jennifer Dobson, the Environmental Health Services Manager at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. “I would consider it a success story.”

Dobson spent Monday in Marshall vaccinating the community’s dogs, and sat down with KYUK as soon as she got back. “After we confirm there’s rabies in a community, everyone jumps into action,” she said. “The community of Marshall knew which dogs had interacted with foxes right away, and they jumped to put them in quarantine.” Dobson added that a volunteer in Marshall vaccinated many local dogs herself last week.

Rabies symptoms in dogs can often be surprisingly mild to begin with, said Dobson. “They might have difficulty moving, changes in behavior,” she said. “One of the most stereotypical symptoms is foaming at the mouth, and you may or may not ever see that.”

Y-K Delta residents should watch their dogs closely for any change in behavior. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, Dobson recommends that you contact a veterinarian or YKHC’s Office of Environmental Health. Their number is 1-800-478-6599.

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