Health officials in Howell County, Missouri reported 32 people, including some children, who may have been exposed to the animals are starting rabies post-exposure treatment.

Howell County, Missouri Image/David Benbennick
Howell County, Missouri
Image/David Benbennick

This is after a six-week-old puppy that showed symptoms and died recently tested positive for rabies in the Moody area.

In addition, eight other unvaccinated dogs, including the puppy’s mother and litter mates, had to be euthanized.

It is believed the mother dog killed a rabid skunk and then licked her puppies spreading the lethal virus.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

The incubation period of rabies may last for a few days to several years, but it is usually three to eight weeks.

A canine suspected of being rabid that had been exhibiting signs of restlessness, and overall uncharacteristic aggressive behavior, which are two symptoms of rabies.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

Officials said if you are bitten to wash the wound immediately for 10-15 minutes, then call your healthcare provider and get vaccinated.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

Worldwide, it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 human deaths due to rabies annually.