To the editor:
In light of your recent article about the high number of rabies cases ("Discovery of rabid bat prompts health concern," LJW, May 17), I'd like to share what I've learned about the disease. Recently my daughter was scratched by a neighbor's cat. Concerned about rabies, I checked with a number of sources, including local health and law enforcement agencies. Everyone I contacted was concerned and eager to help, but one official's advice sometimes contradicted another's.
In my estimation, the best advice I received was from Gail Hansen, DVM, MPH, deputy state epidemiologist for the state Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention, who wrote the state regulations regarding rabies. Here is what she said about the disease:
The only way to make sure a dog or cat hasn't transmitted rabies is to observe the animal for 10 days (which should be done whether the animal is suspected of having rabies or not, even if the animal has been vaccinated against rabies) or to have the brain of the animal tested; Kansas law requires it. A scratch from an animal should be treated the same as a bite. Rabies in humans is fatal, and by the time the human shows symptoms of rabies, it's too late to treat.