By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Officials with Texas A&M University say that rabies cases in Texas cattle is up in 2021, already exceeding the number of cases in all of 2020.

Agricultural Research Service/USDA

There were eight bovine rabies cases in 2020 and four in 2019. In 2021 to date, 10 cattle have tested positive for rabies.

This is prompting state authorities are recommending cattle owners take extra precautions when handling animals that appear ill.

According to Pam Douglas, the infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, “Rabies can occur in all warm-blooded animals and is almost always fatal,” Douglas said. “Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the saliva of an infected animal, usually via a bite or by saliva coming in contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth) or an opening in the skin. Rabies is uncommon in cattle but there can be some instances when cases in nearby wildlife increase because there are more opportunities for exposure.”

Infected animals exhibit a few common behavioral patterns owners can watch out for in their herds.

“Anorexia, itching, impaired coordination, lameness, hypersalivation, the appearance of choking, and bellowing are some of the signs of rabies in cattle,” Douglas said.

Affected animals may also exhibit aggressive behavior, muscle spasms, convulsions, and anxiety.

Considering the serious nature of this disease and the difficulty of treating it, prevention should be the key focus for owners. Rabies vaccinations are strongly recommended for any animal or human at risk of contracting the disease, as rabies exposure transgresses to humans as well, almost always causing death once people begin showing symptoms.

If owners are exposed to the saliva of an infected animal, Douglas suggests washing the contaminated area with soap and water as soon as possible, especially if the saliva came in contact with an open wound and consult with your healthcare provider.