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Archive for Wednesday, January 6, 1999

KU STUDENT BEGINS RABIES TREATMENTS, SEARCHES FOR DOG

January 6, 1999

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A Good Samaritan who stopped to help an injured dog is now facing a month of painful rabies vaccine injections.

A Kansas University student is going to have a long and painful January, unless she can locate the dog that bit her last week after a car hit it.

Tara Laird, 20, began the first of five series of shots at the Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Overland Park on Tuesday. The expensive procedure -- the shots and other medicine will cost $2,000 -- can be avoided if the dog in question can be found and observed. Without the dog, however, doctors recommended the treatment in case Laird contracted the deadly disease through the dog's saliva.

Barbara Schnitker, nursing director at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said no person in the county has contracted rabies, but at least one case in recent years was treated after the animal showed symptoms but before the affected person did. Schnitker said the disease cannot be treated after a person exhibits symptoms.

On Thursday, Laird was driving south on Iowa near 15th Street when the dog darted into traffic. A car in front of Laird's vehicle hit the dog, and she stopped to offer help. Other cars also stopped, and Laird planned to put the dog in her car to take it to a veterinarian. As she reached down, the dog bit her hand and limped away toward campus.

"There's teeth marks on the top and bottom, and the puncture wounds on the bottom are really deep," Laird said Tuesday at her Leawood home, where she is staying until college classes resume.

She immediately returned to her nearby apartment to call the hospital, and doesn't know where the dog went. Numerous calls to animal control, police and local veterinarians haven't located the dog.

She said the dog is short and fat with brown, tan and cream spots, possibly a beagle or a bassett hound. It might have had tags, but Laird isn't sure.

The dog's in-juries were unknown, and Laird is afraid it might have collapsed somewhere and died, and has since been covered by snow. If the dog is dead, its head can be sent to Kansas State University for testing. If the dog is found alive, health officials will monitor it for rabies symptoms.

Meanwhile, Laird will continue the treatments for the next 27 days. Schnitker said the rabies vaccine shots used to be injected into the abdomen, but they are now injected into arm muscles. It's still a painful process, Laird said.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," she said. "Once the symptoms start, there's nothing you can do."

Anyone with information about the dog is asked to call the Lairds at (913) 341-8825.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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