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Don’t pet the skunks (or St. Bernards)

If you are like me, you probably cruised right through World
Rabies Day without even noticing. It was September 28.

When I first saw a notice about this from University of
Calgary, I thought ‘you’ve got to be kidding’.  For anyone who watches The Office sitcom on TV, they had an
episode last year where they did a charity run to raise funds for rabies
awareness. It was hilarious.

But in all honesty, rabies isn’t something to joke about. It

certainly isn’t a major animal or human health concern here in Canada, but
there’s a website that explains about 55,000 people globally die from rabies
every year. That’s one every 10 minutes. Most deaths are in Africa and Asia. I
don’t know much about it, but my understanding is, it isn’t a pleasant way to
go.

I remember as a kid on the farm in Ontario, there was always
a warning to watch out for odd behavior in skunks and bats (even foxes but
there weren’t many of them around in those days). I remember once my Granddad
had a mid-day battle with a bat that was flopping around in the yard. Grandpa’s
brome or shovel won out.

And there was a neighbor woman, too, Doris, who farmed just
down the road. She apparently was exposed to rabies at one time, and the story
as I recall was that she had to get injections in the stomach with some
treatment for about two weeks. Apparently the needles were about eight inches

long. That’s the story I remember anyway. According to the website current
treatment is relatively painless and isn’t much different than getting a flu
shot in the arm.

Other than that, my life has been pretty well rabies free.
Of course who can forget what happened to Old Yeller and after watching the
movie Cujo many years ago, I still don’t warm up to St. Bernards. Any dogs
we’ve had over the years have always had rabies shots.

cujo2b.jpg

I’m not sure if we need a day to mark rabies awareness, but
on the other hand why not. There’s a DAY for just about everything else.  If there had not been a day, I wouldn’t

have been aware of how many people actually die from the disease every year.

Again it is just a good reminder of how lucky we are here in
Canada and North America that so many routine threats faced in other parts of the world, aren’t really a concern here. And we have the resources to either prevent or treat those
conditions if they do appear, albeit rarely.

I guess the message is, be on the safe side. Have your pets
vaccinated against rabies, watch out for odd behavior in wild animals, and
never take anything for granted. And if your spouse, weird Uncle, or a neighbour
is acting peculiar consult a medical professional long before you try to
settle them down with the business end of a round pointed shovel.

 

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About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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