Coronavirus and Rabies

Dr. Nathan Carlton, DVM

I was in an exam room finishing up with a terrified little chihuahua when I heard the news playing in our waiting room. The anchor informed listeners that there is another case of coronavirus in the U.S.  I went into my next room and, after our initial introductions, my client asked me, “What do you get after you have the coronavirus?” I thought about it a minute, then I replied, “Lyme disease?” We laughed at our wit for a couple minutes then went on to look at his dog, a big male German Shepherd, appropriately named Lucifer.  “Luci” did not find the joke very funny.

It feels like all we are hearing about lately is the coronavirus. What is a coronavirus? Viruses, in general, are microscopic organisms that highjack a cell’s machinery and use it to replicate. The results can make a person, or animal, feel pretty terrible. Viruses can be species specific, or they can cross species as was the case for COVID-19, the new coronavirus. 

Coronaviruses are very common, in fact if you have had a cold in your life the cause may have been a coronavirus. This family of viruses are found in animals as well. The canine coronavirus can cause severe intestinal disease in dogs and, in cats, a coronavirus can cause a life-ending condition known is Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP.  Medical providers and veterinarians can support patients by treating the symptoms; however, there are no treatments for these viruses. With all the attention being given to COVID-19, I worry people are forgetting about common contagious diseases that are here in our community. One being, the preventable, dangerous and common zoonotic virus—Rabies.  

Rabies is a viral disease that kills 100 percent of people infected who do not receive their post-exposure prophylaxis in time. Jarrell police officers have responded to skunks out in daylight acting erratically. Skunks are nocturnal; a skunk mulling around in daylight is strongly suggestive of a rabid animal. Make sure you keep your dog, cat, or horse vaccinated. 

In 2018 Williamson County was the sixth most rabid county in the whole state! There were 315 positive cases that year, which is a lot, but nothing compared with Harris County, which had a whopping 1,494 cases!   

Prevention is key to protecting against all viruses. Prevention for COVID-19 and other strains of coronavirus consist of: avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and objects daily, and washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Prevention for rabies and other animal viruses consist of: vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. It is not expensive, it can save your pet’s life, and protect yours.

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