Two SOLDIERS at Fort Riley, Kansas, may have contracted RABIES in Afghanistan ~ AUTHOR’S NOTE ~ Illinois confirms second WEST NILE VIRUS death this year ~ Tennessee reports first WEST NILE VIRUS death since 2009 ~ RABIES reports from Alabama, Massachusetts, Nebraska, & North Carolina ~ Canada: Ontario field worker badly mauled by BLACK BEAR ~ FOLLOW-UP REPORTS: North Carolina city has over 100 STRAY DOGS destroyed ~ AUTHOR’S NOTE.

Kansas 10/05/11 by Any Rao – When American troops go through basic training, they are prepared to face the horrors of war. Common footage of soldiers includes daring acts of bravery as they defy their enemies and defeat the evil that threatens their country. Recently, however, soldiers deployed in Afghanistan have come across an unexpected threat: rabies.

Rabies is a virus that is transmitted through the infected saliva of mammals and is most commonly transferred through a bite or a scratch that breaks the skin. The virus attacks the central nervous system and the brain and is almost always fatal. Rabid animals or human beings may become combative, aggressive and highly sensitive to touch and stimulation. The troops are given safety briefings on how to deal with wild or unknown animals, who are the primary carriers of rabies. “Troops are instructed to avoid unfamiliar animals,” said Lt. Col. Paul Benne, chief of preventive medicine at Irwin Army Community Hospital. “Any contact with an infected animal can expose our troops and we want to take every precaution to make sure our men are safe.”

Despite multiple briefings, troops in Afghanistan have not been able to completely steer clear of rabies. “Currently, we have two soldiers that are being treated for what could possibly be the rabies virus,” said Katherine Rosario, public affairs specialist at Irwin Army Community Hospital. “We aren’t completely sure whether or not the soldiers have actually contracted the disease, but we are taking the necessary steps to treat what could be rabies.” A third soldier from Fort Drum, however, passed away on Aug. 31 as a result of a bite that he received from a feral dog.

“Rabies takes anywhere from 3-8 weeks and sometimes even longer to display symptoms,” Benne said. “In the case of the Fort Drum soldier who recently passed away, he had returned home for several months before there was anything noticeably wrong.” There are vaccinations available for rabies and the treatment is generally a series of shots over the period of two weeks in order to introduce the proper antibodies into the immune system. The combination of the vaccination and natural antibodies can help prevent rabies from being transmitted easily. According to Benne, prevention is the most effective method of slowing the spread of rabies.

“We are trying to get the word out to the population of soldiers in our area that rabies is a legitimate threat to the well-being of our troops,” said Benne. “We encourage everybody to get screened and treated if need be and would like to ensure we take action in a timely manner.” Benne also said that there is a 24/7 hotline number set up at 800-984-8523 to assist people in containing the virus. A public health nurse can also be reached during operating hours at 785-239-7323.

According to Mike Moore, primary diagnostician at the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, even the state of Kansas houses rabies more prevalently than many would assume. “Rabies is actually endemic in Kansas,” said Moore. “This means that it is continuously in the environment and is most often carried by mammals such as bats and skunks.” Though rabies is generally transmitted through wild animals, there are possibilities that a domesticated animal can contract it and even unknowingly spread it. “People often assume that rabies is not a very common virus,” said Rolan Davis, reference diagnostician at the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. “Although the rabies virus cases are not as common as they used to be in the United States, they are not considered rare in places like Afghanistan, which may not have as strong of a public health policy as we do.”

The Irwin Army Community Hospital recommended that all soldiers who may have come into contact with unknown animals be screened for rabies. “We are not discouraging the bond between man and animal,” said Rosario. “But our first priority is to maintain the health and well-being of our patients and to ensure that our troops are not affected by the rabies virus.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have written to U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a member of the House Armed Forces Committee, asking for further relative information and an explanation as to why all troops being deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t given a rabies Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis vaccination. I will publish Congresswoman Pingree’s response in this blog.

Illinois 10/06/11 by Len Wells – A 74-year-old Centralia, Ill., woman has become the latest victim of West Nile Virus. The woman died in late September, according to officials with the Marion County Health Department. In addition to the fatality, Marion County has confirmed two other human cases of the mosquito-borne disease this year. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control report that as of October 4, Illinois has recorded 18 human cases of West Nile Virus, including two fatalities. Despite the confirmed death in Centralia, Marion County recorded no mosquito batches infected with the disease, and no birds were submitted for testing.

Tennessee 10/05/11 The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed the first death in Tennessee due to West Nile virus since 2009. The individual is a resident of Shelby County. There have been 14 human cases of the illness in Tennessee so far this year. The Department of Health urges Tennesseans to continue to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites to protect themselves against West Nile virus.

Alabama 10/05/11 by Matt Elofson – Houston County Health Department officials confirmed the county’s seventh case of animal rabies for 2011. According to a statement from the Houston County Health Department, officials found a raccoon that tested positive for rabies on Saturday on Peach Farm Road. According to the Health Department’s investigation, neighborhood residents found the raccoon next to a pond and requested health department officials to test it. There was no known human exposure or animal contact with the rabid raccoon. Houston County Health Department officials encouraged county residents to keep their pets current on their rabies vaccinations. There were five rabid animals found in Houston County in 2010, all of which were raccoons.

Massachusetts 10/05/11 by Kye Parsons – The Worcester County Health Department has confirmed a cat found near the intersection of Greenbackville Road and George Island Landing Road in Stockton tested positive for rabies. The large black cat was described as having a red collar that had green and yellow flowers and a bell on it. Deputy Health Officer Dr. Andrea Mathias warns that any person, pet or other animal that may have had contact with this cat could be at risk for rabies exposure. To report any contact with or exposure with the cat, call the Worcester County Health Department immediately at (410) 641-9559.

Nebraska 10/07/11 The Aurora Police Department is advising area residents to be on the lookout for strange behavior in animals after a rabid skunk that bit a dog was found in Refshauge Park. The animal was submitted for rabies testing by the Aurora Veterinary Clinic.

North Carolina 10/05/11 The Davidson County Health Department has reported the 14th case of rabies for the year. On Sept. 29, a rabid raccoon was found in the Central Davidson community. The raccoon was killed by a dog that had a lapsed vaccine and had to be destroyed. There was no human exposure reported. Do not handle your animal with bare hands after it has had contact with a wild animal. Saliva from the wild animal may still be present on the domestic animal’s fur and by handling the animal you may expose yourself to the rabies virus. If there are stray dogs, cats, or wildlife in your neighborhood, call Animal Control at 249-0131. Call the Rabies Hot Line at 242-2348 if you or your pet comes in contact with another animal.


Ontario 10/06/11 A bear thought to be responsible for a savage attack on Tuesday, north of Thunder Bay, has been caught and destroyed. The animal badly mauled a 24-year-old employee of the Ministry of Natural Resouces while she was doing field work near Wabikon Lake, off Highway 527. The woman’s male colleague managed to scare the animal away by stabbing it, ministry spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski told CBC News. “The bear that was dispatched today had wounds that were consistent with those that had been inflicted by a co-worker who was providing assistance to the injured employee,” she said. The ministry says the wildlife assessment worker was attacked in dense bush shortly before 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. An MNR crew cleared an area in the bush so a helicopter could land and take the woman to Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. “The crew immediately contacted the MNR in Thunder Bay once the bear left the scene,” ministry spokesperson Katherine Lyzun said. Ministry officials say they are not releasing details about the worker’s injuries due to privacy concerns.

Follow-Up Reports:

North Carolina 10/06/11 by Gregory Phillips – (See August 1, 2011: North Carolina’s Cumberland County to trap or kill 60 Feral Dogs; and August 2, 2011: Follow-Up Report on Feral Dog Packs in Cumberland County, North Carolina) More than 100 wild dogs were removed from Fayetteville streets over the past two months by the firm hired to address the city’s pack dog problem. Almost 70 of the dogs were killed in the field, and all but four of them ultimately euthanized. Animal Control officials are looking into alternative, nonlethal methods for tackling the problem if it returns again next summer. County officials said Mims Wildlife Control removed 109 dogs in August and September that were blamed for killing pets and menacing residents. Public health concerns were sparked when rabies tests were inconclusive on some dead animals attacked by some of the dogs. Of the dogs removed, 69 were killed in the field and 44 brought to the shelter at Cumberland County Animal Control. Four of them were adopted; the rest were later euthanized at the shelter. An additional nine puppies captured with pack dogs are in foster care in Virginia. – For complete article go to


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