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Rabies vaccinations set for Saturday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County pet owners can get their dogs and cats vaccinated for rabies at a low cost this weekend.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is hosting a roadside rabies clinic from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday in its Lee Street parking lot. Pet owners can get their animals vaccinated for $10 in cash.

The clinic is being offered in response to a low rabies vaccination rate of dogs in the county, said Brandon Merritt, regional epidemiologist.

In looking at data from animal bites in Kanawha County between 2007 and 2010, health officials found that 80 percent of the 626 reported animal bites were from dogs and 16 percent were from cats.

The remaining bites were from rodents, raccoons, bats, ferrets and monkeys. Of the animals responsible for bites in those three years, only 35 percent of dogs and 21 percent of cats had up-to-date rabies vaccines, Merritt said.

If health officials can't firm that an offending animal has had a rabies vaccination, they have to recommend that bite victims get the human rabies vaccine, which is costly and painful, he said.

The series of shots is less expensive now than it used to be when it required five or more shots to the abdomen, he said. The current practice for human vaccinations for rabies requires four shots that range in cost from $600 to $1,000 each, he said.

"A lot of people, when they hear you're going to recommend a rabies vaccination, they freak out," Merritt said.

Of the bite victims between 2007 and 2010, health officials recommended that 40 people get a rabies vaccine, he said.

Saturday's event will be the first roadside rabies clinic the health department has offered. If it's successful, officials want to make it an annual event, Merritt said. Officials plan to have 500 vaccines and four to five veterinarians on hand. Owners should be able to get their pet vaccinated in five or 10 minutes, he said.

Local veterinarians, the Kanawha Charleston Humane Society, the Kanawha County Commission and Dog Bless are partnering with the health department for the clinic.

Though dog and cat owners are required to get rabies vaccinations for their pet, vet costs are sometimes restrictive to pet owners, said Anita Ray, environmental director for the health department.

Though rabies cases are rare, they're almost always fatal, she said.

People may think their dogs are sweet but all dogs will bite when their put into a situation where they want to protect their territory, she said.

"People need to be responsible with their dogs and cats," Ray said.

The roadside rabies clinic will be 9 a.m. until noon Saturday April 13 in the parking lot of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, 108 Lee Street East, Charleston. Checks and credit cards will not be accepted at the clinic.

For more information, call the health department at 304-344-5243.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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