Rabies returns to the Y-K Delta

National Science Foundation photo

Four rabies cases have been confirmed in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta recently. Three rabid foxes and one rabid dog were found in Nightmute, Alakanuk and Bethel.

Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Lauri Meythaler-Mullins has been working in all three places to vaccinate pets and to diagnose and confirm cases. She said that the dog with rabies was euthanized.

“And there were three other dogs in addition that had been euthanized because they came into contact. They were bit by rabid foxes. All four of these dogs, they were not vaccinated,” Meythaler-Mullins said.

Having a vaccine against rabies can make the difference between life and death for a dog. Meythaler-Mullins said that a vaccinated dog does not have to be euthanized if bitten by a rabid animal. Instead, they are quarantined for 45 days and given another vaccine. An unvaccinated animal is not so fortunate.

“If the fox was rabid, the dog will develop rabies. So that dog will have to be euthanized. If we’re uncertain, there will be a longer quarantine for an unvaccinated dog,” Meythaler-Mullins said.

Meythaler-Mullins had one final bit of advice for people who shoot rabid animals: don’t shoot them in the head.

“This is really important because they need the brain to test for rabies,” Meythaler-Mullins said.

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