Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Rabies is a vaccine preventable disease in humans, dogs, cats and ferrets as well as some domestic livestock. All mammals are susceptible to rabies and it is nearly always fatal. Rabies can be prevented in humans with timely and appropriate treatment. In North Carolina the disease most often occurs in wild animals especially skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes. Raccoon rabies is present in the raccoon population in virtually every North Carolina county. In attempt to keep the county safer, the Macon County Public Health has scheduled eight rabies vaccination clinics all over Macon County in May to provide rabies vaccinations for all dogs, cats, and ferrets, at a low cost. 

“Domestic animals (including cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock such as horses, cattle and sheep) are susceptible to rabies, but there are few cases because of the use of USDA-licensed rabies vaccines.,” said Jimmy Villiard, Animal Services Section Administrator.” North Carolina law (N.C. general statute 130A-185) requires owners of dogs, cats and ferrets to have their pets currently vaccinated against rabies, beginning at four months of age.” 

Macon County Public Health, in cooperation with local veterinarians, sponsors Rabies vaccination clinics in Macon County to facilitate citizens in ensuring their animals are vaccinated against rabies and are in compliance with North Carolina law.

“Local veterinarians volunteer their time to provide a Public Health Service to the community,” said Villiard. “Macon County Public Health provides support personnel to help with promoting these events, coordinating site locations and providing support during the events.” 

Local veterinarians volunteering their time include Animal House Veterinary Clinic, Franklin Veterinary Hospital, Rabun Animal Hospital, Noah’s Ark, Lenzo Animal Hospital, and Highlands-Cashiers Animal Clinic.  

The rabies vaccination clinic is an annual event and is held in communities across the county to increase access to the service. The majority of the clinics will be held on Saturday, May 12. Beginning at 9 a.m., there will be clinics at East Franklin Elementary School and Highlands Community Center.  A clinic will be being at Iotla Valley at 10 a.m., and at Scaly Mountain Post office at 11 a.m. Clinics will also be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at South Macon Elementary, Mountain View Intermediate, and Cartoogechaye Elementary. Clinics run for two hours and will only accept cash for the $10 cost of the vaccine. For the Nantahala Community, a rabies vaccination clinic will be held at the Nantahala EMS Facility on Saturday, May 26, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. 

“Site locations are selected based on availability, veterinarian availability and ease of traffic flow during the events,” said Villiard. “Historically, Macon County Schools have allowed for several of their school sites to be utilized on weekends to conduct these events.”

People who are bitten by a mammal, or otherwise possibly exposed to rabies, should first wash any wounds thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and then seek immediate medical attention to prevent the development of fatal disease. A doctor will determine what treatment is needed, such as post-exposure vaccination. Bites should also be reported to animal control immediately to ensure that the biting animal is captured and tested (wild or ill animal) or confined (healthy domestic animal).

“The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death,” said Villiard. “You can only get rabies by coming in contact with the saliva, tears or brain/nervous system tissue of an infected animal — for example, if you are bitten by a rabid animal, handle a pet that has been attacked by a rabid animal such as a fox, or are cleaning a dead animal you have killed while hunting.” 

For more information on the rabies clinics or for additional information on vaccines,  call 349-2106.