Health officials are continuing to caution area residents about an outbreak of rabies, urging people not to panic but to use common sense when encountering wild animals and unfamiliar domesticated pets.
According the local health department, seven confirmed cases of rabies had been documented in Douglas County since the beginning of the year an increase from previous years.
"I think the public needs to continue to be aware that there are cases of rabies in the county," said Greg Olmsted, director of environmental health for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
Olmsted recommends the following precautions to help avoid exposure to rabies:
Make sure dogs and cats are vaccinated for rabies and keep vaccinations up-to-date.
Do not approach unfamiliar dogs, cats or other pets.
Do not keep wild animals as pets.
ALTHOUGH the health department does not keep records on the exact locations of reported incidents of rabies, Olmsted said general locations of the known incidents in the county do not indicate "any kind of a pattern."
Of the seven recorded rabies cases in Douglas County, two were recorded in or near the Lawrence city limits: A cow was infected just north of the Kansas River, outside the northeastern city limits; and a puppy was found infected near Haskell Avenue, just north of 23rd Street, Olmsted said.
Other cases of infected animals were recorded near Lecompton, at the Douglas-Franklin county line, and about 3 miles south of Lawrence off U.S. Highway 59.
Another case was recorded when a dead skunk infected with rabies was brought to a local veterinarian from Leavenworth, he said.
A TOTAL of 78 cases had been documented in the state from Jan. 1 to early March up 15 cases than the number documented in all of 1991.
Dr. Jerry Robbins, an Oskaloosa veterinarian who examined the rabies-infected cow just northeast of the city, said skunks are the primary rabies-carriers in the area.
"The animal that infected that cow is probably dead by now," he said, adding that animals infected with the virus do not live long.
Robbins said residents in the area have "gone overboard" with rabies concern, in part because of misinformation that been reported on television newscasts.
"I had a woman who wanted to know if she should quarantine her dog because the dog had been sprayed by a skunk," he said, adding pets and people cannot acquire the rabies virus if they are sprayed by a skunk.
ROBBINS SAID he was "flooded" with calls after television reports of the rabies outbreak aired this month.
"Everybody wanted to know if they should quarantine all their animals just because they had seen a skunk in the area," he said.
Robbins said that if one farm animal is diagnosed with rabies, it doesn't necessarily mean an owner must quarantine all of his animals.
In each individual report of rabies, he said, veterinarians and health officials may recommend that some at-risk animals be kept isolated and under observation for a period of time.
"But there has to be a reasonable risk," he said. "The main thing is that everybody should act with common sense."