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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Rabies data

May 12, 2013

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To the editor:

Local veterinarian Steve Willson claims the Journal-World “encourages” the spread of rabies by reporting an upcoming concert for Operation WildLife. My daughter and I volunteer there. We’re trained to handle animals safely. Nobody wants rabies.

K-State rabies lab stats for the last decade reveal 12,777 animals tested. On average, 75 a year test positive; only 17 are NOT skunks! Humans avoid skunks, yet many love cats, the second most common critter to test positive: 73 in the past decade. Along with 53 cows, 24 horses and 18 dogs.

Bats have a “rabies reputation,” yet only brown bats have broken into double figures for positive tests since 2003. No other species is close. Only three coyotes and four raccoons have tested positive statewide, about the same as goats and sheep!

Some of my neighbors worry about foxes. Rabid foxes are rare in Kansas. In Douglas County, the only confirmed rabies case was a bat in Eudora back in 2004. Not even one Kansas opossum or squirrel came up positive in that decade.

None of this is to suggest that caution is not merited. As a Special Forces medic in Vietnam, where rabies is far more prevalent, I had to administer the 21-shot abdominal rabies series to three people, two of whom were children. It is a horrifying disease. But I do believe it is downright silly for a trained veterinarian to chastise this paper for an article that helped bring attention to a concert intended to help fund Operation WildLife.

Comments

streetman 11 months, 1 week ago

It is important to point out that any attempt to draw conclusions about the incidence of rabies among different species based solely upon submissions to the K-State rabies diagnostic lab, as Mr. Caron has done, is completely invalid. The species numbers are based upon what is submitted, not actual relative populations of animal species. (Submissions are generally made for one of two reasons: 1) an animal was observed exhibiting abnormal behavior and someone wanted to know whether it was due to rabies, or 2) there was actual or potential human or domestic animal exposure to a wild animal (that may or may not have been exhibiting abnormal behavior) and it is necessary to help determine whether potential treatment is warranted). Some species are more likely than others to be seen in the wild (e.g. skunks vs. bats) and/or tested (e.g. cats vs. opossum) regardless of their likelihood of being infected or diseased. Further, the species with the highest number of "positives" varies from state-to-state, and for the entire US, rabies positive raccoons far out number skunks.

Take home message -- please use "facts" carefully.

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Lynn731 11 months, 1 week ago

I and my brother had to take the abdominal rabies series when we were growing up. Mom and Dad (a physician) thought it was precautionary, but important, as a dog down the street had rabies and died. I am in my 60's, but I still remember those stomach shots. I am thankful that now the series is much shorter, and not in the abdomen. I would not wish that on any other kid. I appreciate the work animal rescue groups do. I love animals. We got our present black lab from an animal rescue group, and a couple who made the sacrifice of keeping her until she was adopted. She was kept in their garage, as their own dog would not let another dog in the house. Not only did they keep her, but when we decided to adopt her, they even brought her to us. Quite a long drive for them, too.

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Leslie Swearingen 11 months, 1 week ago

Some people seem to react emotionally, even viscerally when they even hear the words bat, snake, wolf, etc. which is why these animals are in horror movies. But, movies are not real life. The thing is that if you grow up hearing this at home all the time you probably just accept it.

When I was a child a bat flew into the garage. I built a refuge for it out of a box with cheesecloth on one side. The bat hung from the cheesecloth. At one point it left and I never saw it again. It may have been hurt, it was so many years ago the details are hazy. But, it was a great experience. The love of animals has been in our family for generations and is still being handed down.

Many, many thanks to OWL and all those who work to help animals.

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Ken Lassman 11 months, 1 week ago

Thank you. Hopefully since his misguided letter, Mr. Willson has taken the time to actually see first hand the valuable services that projects like Operation Wildlife provides and better understands the net benefits both for the human and more than human communities. And thank you for your and your daughter's volunteering for OWL. I haven't made my annual contribution to them yet this year so thanks for the reminder.

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