Rabies- A Public Health Concern

Why the public needs to be concerned:

Rabies is a virus that infects the nervous system of animals and people. It is extraordinarily rare for an infected dog, cat, or person to live after being infected. The only reliable test requires brain tissue; testing of living animals or people is not possible currently. The best way to protect people is to minimize exposure to infected animals, therefore the vaccination of cats and dogs is required.

How cats and dogs are exposed:

Certain animals are known as reservoir hosts for rabies; they are capable of carrying the disease without getting sick. In eastern Tennessee, reservoir hosts are the bat and the striped skunk, and to a lesser extent the raccoon and the fox. In other areas of the country the raccoon or the fox may be a more prevalent host. A bite from an animal harboring rabies is the main source of

Vaccination protects your pet from rabies:

Tennessee requires all dogs and cats over 6 months of age to be vaccinated rabies and to stay up to date with boosters for life. The City of Knoxville and Knox County requirement is even earlier (within 30 days of turning 3 months old). This vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian. An owner receives a rabies certificate as proof of vaccination and a tag to attach to the collar of the pet.

Indoor cats are still required by law to get vaccinated for rabies. Bats can enter the home, cats can escape from the home and risk exposure.

Read more about how to protect your pet and yourself:

Tennessee Department of Health

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