(October 7, 2014) - The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) has been notified by the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) that a case of rabies has been confirmed in a dog in the West Monroe area. LDH officials also confirmed a cat in Washington Parish was reported positive for rabies in September and that a dog was reported in Lafayette Parish in January.

"It has come to our attention that several people were bitten by the dog and exposed to its saliva. This is the fifth confirmed case of rabies in Louisiana since 2007. By law, anyone who owns a dog, cat or ferret over three months old must have it vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian," said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.

LDH State Public Health Veterinarian and Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Gary Balsamo, D.V.M., confirmed that the exposed citizens were being properly treated for the disease and echoed Commissioner Strain stating, "Tissue samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine which variant of the disease the dog had, and all who were in contact with the puppy are receiving appropriate treatment. However, this incident illustrates the importance of using caution around unfamiliar animals, even seemingly harmless puppies or kittens, and for getting your own vulnerable pets vaccinated against rabies."

Tips on how to keep you and your pets safe from rabies:

  • All dogs, cats and ferrets should be properly vaccinated.
  • Ask your veterinarian about what precautions to take if you own a horse.
  • Keep vaccines up to date.
  • Avoid stray animals and report strays to local animal control.
  • Avoid contact with wildlife, especially skunks and bats.
  • If your dog, cat, ferret or horse is sick, contact a veterinarian.

Rabies is caused by a virus. It is primarily a disease of wild animals, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, but it is easily transferred to both common house pets and humans. Rabies can be deadly if not treated. It is strongly recommend that all unvaccinated dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated at twelve weeks of age and given the appropriate boosters by a licensed veterinarian using the appropriate vaccine. Horse owners are also strongly encouraged to consult a veterinarian about whether a vaccine is needed. Even after a bite by a rabid animal or domestic pet, the disease can be prevented in both humans and pets through prompt attention by medical personnel, who should be alerted immediately. If you or your pets are bitten by an animal and you don't know if that animal has been vaccinated in the past year, seek medical attention immediately.

Remember, if a stray appears in your neighborhood, it may have rabies. Contact your local animal control office to report the presence of such unfamiliar animals. If your community lacks an animal control office, please contact your parish or city governmental office about whom to call.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.