THE COLONY — Five people in The Colony have been exposed to rabies and are being proactively treated after coming into contact with a pet dog that tested positive for the disease.
The Colony Police Department Chief Joseph T. Clark said the dog — which lived at a home in the 6800 block of Curry Drive — bit a child on July 13, and later bit two adults on July 15 and 17.
The bites were not initially reported to The Colony Animal Services.
When the dog became ill on July 18, however, the owners took it to the vet. There, the vet contacted The Colony Animal Services after learning of the bites, and had the animal submitted for a rabies test.
When the results returned positive for rabies, animal services worked in conjunction with the Department of State Health Services to notify the three bitten persons and direct them to treatment facilities, Clark said.
The dog has been euthanized.
They also worked to identify other potential victims, and discovered two more persons had come in contact with the dog.
According to a news release from The Colony police, animal services believes the dog most likely picked up the virus from neighborhood feral cats. Community members said they have seen the cats eat and drink from the infected dog’s food and water bowls.
"[Cats] were seen in the backyards with this dog on several occasions, so they could've gotten into a tussle with these cats that were exposed via wildlife," said Patricia Barrington, The Colony’s animal services manager.
Barrington said her department has gone out into the community alerting residents to the risk of rabies, and advising to stop feeding wild cats.
"The folks who fed these cats are technically their owners, because they're providing conditions for them to sustain life," she said.
Julian Duarte lives on the block where the family was bitten. He hasn't noticed a huge number of feral cats, but does say he'll have a knife on hand... just in case.
"I'll stab a cat. I don't want no rabies shot. Those things hurt," he said.
Barrington said there hasn't been positive exposure of rabies in a domesticated animal since her time at the department in 2005. But she does say the last non-domesticated animal to test positive was a bat back in 2012.
The Colony police released the below statement:
“In an effort to reduce the likelihood of repeated positive rabies cases, The Colony Animal Services will be increasing patrols for stray/at-large animals, verifying rabies vaccinations of all animals officers come into contact with as well as providing the opportunity for reduced cost rabies vaccinations.
A low-cost vaccination clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Aug 24 at the shelter, 4720 E Lake Highlands. Rabies vaccinations will be available for only $5.
For more information, call the shelter at 972-370-9250.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no specific treatment for rabies infection. While typically a fatal disease, people bitten by animals with rabies are advised to receive a series of shots to prevent the virus from infecting them. The first part of the shots includes a fast-acting shot partly administered near the bite location, as soon as possible after the bite occurs.
The second part is a series of vaccinations that help the body learn to identify and fight the rabies virus. The vaccination process includes five shots over 14 days, injected in the patient’s arm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is estimated that 40,000 people receive prevention treatment for a potential rabies exposure in the U.S. every year.
While 90 percent of rabid animals reported to the CDC each year are wild, there has been a noticeable rise in the amount of cats with the infection over the past years.