"The Heart of the Matter"

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Transcripts: 513-3 and 513-4

Week: 513.3 Guest: Stanley A. Cohn, V.M.D. Topic: Rabies - Part One Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA : This is the first half of a conversation on rabies with veterinarian Dr. Stanley Cohn from the Old Trail Animal Hospital in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania.

NEMA : Dr. Cohn, let's lay a little background here for our discussion. What is rabies?

COHN: Rabies is a viral disease that can be spread from one warm-blooded animal to another usually by a bite wound. There is no cure for rabies. Once you have rabies or once an animal has rabies, it's going to die and there is no treatment known. There is prophylaxis. You can vaccinate animals to prevent rabies from occurring if you're in an area where there is rabies but once you start showing the signs of rabies, that's unfortunately the end of the problem.

NEMA : I want to talk some more specifically about vaccinations in a minute but certainly rabies periodically seems to make it in and out of the news depending on the perception of it being a higher degree in the wild animal population or a lower degree - where are we right now relative to where we've been in the last 10 year? Is there still an increase in the wild animal population or has it leveled off or has it even decreased?

COHN: I don't believe it's certainly decreased. I think that if anything, it's at least the same as it has been and possibly even greater. It's very hard to tell because the publicity of this kind of thing can be so blown out of proportion based upon what's happening in what area. It used to be very very high in Maryland and it moved into Pennsylvania and now it's moving into New York State from the literature that I've read.

NEMA : Among the animals in the wild population, does there seem to be a most prevalent carrier? Is it still bats and raccoons or others?

COHN: Skunks, I think, are number one and raccoons come next and there are many others. Bats are very interesting though as far as carriers of rabies. These animals in the wild are called a reservoir and as far as we know, that's really pretty steady. Those animals may carry rabies without showing symptoms for a year and a half and during that period of time, they can fight with other animals over territory or mating or for whatever reason and they can be spreading this kind of disease without even knowing about it. The animals eventually start to show symptoms and signs of rabies which might be doing things that are out of the ordinary - walking in circles or walking into trees or falling down, staggering, trying to eat but being unable to swallow, drooling which is just because the saliva can't go down the throat - and then these animals will die and the animals that they have bitten over that past whatever period of time will act as the reservoir and continue to spread rabies through their areas. You think of animals that are doing things that you would not expect them to do.

NEMA : Join me for the second half of my conversation on rabies with Dr. Stanley Cohn.


Week: 513.4 Guest: Stanley A. Cohn, V.M.D. Topic: Rabies - Part Two Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA : This is the second half of a conversation on rabies with veterinarian Dr. Stanley Cohn from the Old Trail Animal Hospital in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania. I asked Dr. Cohn about the symptoms of rabies.

COHN: Mostly you look for animals and I like to think about skunks and raccoons - you think of animals that are doing things that you would not expect them to do like walking in your front yard in the middle of the day. You do not see skunks walking around during the day or raccoons walking around in the middle of the day usually. They're going to be either nocturnal or they're going to be in areas where they have lots of cover so animals that do things like that should be considered rabid or at least sick and those animals should be avoided. You should call the proper authorities to take care of animals like that.

NEMA : Let's just hypothetically suppose that an animal did in fact die of rabies and you find the carcass of the animal in your front lawn. How dangerous is a dead animal's body that has died of rabies just to the touch? If a person picks them up, how likely are they to be infected by the virus?

COHN: It's the saliva that you have to worry about and as long as you use gloves or I wouldn't even go up and touch it with my hands. If it's already dead you use a shovel or you use whatever and you move it and you take care of it in a sanitary, hopefully humane way and you have no risk at all. The rabies virus is a very fragile virus and even if let's say your dog is in a fight with a raccoon and the dog comes home - you call it, it comes home to you, it was not bitten but it has saliva all over it, you know, that saliva can carry the rabies virus and you should not get that on you if you have cuts or whatever. I would try to avoid getting it on me at all for at least two or three hours. After that, the virus, if there is virus there, would be dead or would have been broken up.

NEMA : How effective are immunizations for dogs and cats against rabies and aren't there a number of different types and why do you choose one type over another?

COHN: Almost all of the types are extremely effective. A lot depends on the locality, where you are located. Each locality, each government area may have different rules and regulations for vaccination, in other words, how old the animal should be when it is first vaccinated, how long the first vaccine will last, when it needs the second vaccination and how long the second vaccination lasts? These vaccinations should be given by a veterinarian and you should get a certificate and a rabies tag indicating that this animal has been vaccinated and how long the vaccine is good for. There is no cure for rabies and to have the risk of bringing something into your house like that or being near your family, your children, it's just not worth it.

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