Hill County Paw Pals, Hill County, Texas

Deadly Rabies Virus—Clear and Present Danger in Hill County


Hill County has been designated a “rabies quarantine” county because the rabies virus exists in our area.  Rabies is the most dangerous zoonotic disease (animal to human) known to man.  Rabies is nearly 100% fatal in humans and can be transmitted from contact with unvaccinated cats and dogs or any infected warm blooded animal.  Based on a formula provided by the Humane Society of the United States some 11,325 dogs and 16,912 cats live within households of Hill County as family pets.  These figures do not include the thousands of homeless dogs and cats that are labeled as “strays”.  It is not known how many pets do not receive rabies vaccinations, but official estimates run from 50-70% of pets being unvaccinated or not current on vaccinations.  Therefore, taking the total of dogs and cats some 14,118-19,765 dogs and cats live with families in Hill County that remain unvaccinated against the deadly rabies virus!  Current laws of Texas are serious in protecting our citizens against rabies.  Texas law directs all dogs and cats after four months of age be vaccinated against the rabies virus and remain current with annual or triennial boosters.  If fact, it is a criminal penalty if found in violation (Class C Misdemeanor which is a fine of up to $300).  If a person has been previously convicted, one can be subjected to a Class B Misdemeanor (up to $1,000 fine).  To avoid the health and financial liabilities, wouldn’t it be cheaper and safer to make an appointment with your local veterinarian and have your pet vaccinated or attend our low cost shot clinic which is held on the first Tuesday of each month from 10am-2pm?

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) considers any animal bite a quarantine situation.  A quarantine period is a necessary precaution because an animal may appear healthy, but actually be sick with rabies.  The logic behind this quarantine requirement is to understand the pathogenesis of the rabies virus.  When the rabies virus enters the body (can be from a mere scratch) the virus travels from the site of inoculation to the brain by moving within nerves.  The animal will not appear sick during this time (called the incubation period).  A bite from the animal during this incubation period does not carry risk of rabies because the virus is not in the saliva.  Only late in the disease, after the virus has reached the brain and multiplied there to cause encephalitis (brain inflammation), does the virus move from the brain to the salivary glands and saliva.  It is during this time that the animal begins to show unmistakable signs of rabies and its ability to transmit the rabies virus.  The first symptoms of rabies may be nonspecific flu-like signs—malaise, fever, or headache.  A few days later discomfort or paresthesia at the site of the bite will appear and then progressing confusion, agitation, delirium, and hallucinations.  The acute period of the disease (when the rabies virus can be transmitted from saliva) typically ends with death after 1-10 days—hence, the 10 day quarantine requirement.  Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.

Texas law, in dealing with rabies protection, mandates each county establish a Rabies Control Authority.  Hill County Sheriff Office has been designated as the Rabies Control Authority for our county.  All animal bite incidents should be immediately reported to your family doctor and local law enforcement.  If you live outside an area without local law enforcement the incident should be directed to the Sheriff Office where strict procedures must be followed in accordance with Texas Health and Safety Codes Chapters 826 and 167.27.

            If you have not provided your pet with a rabies vaccination or made it current, please do so today.  This is for your family’s protection and those living around you.  Pet ownership requires responsibility.

            If you would like to become involved with the efforts of Hill County Paw Pals to bring positive change to our county, please call (254) 580-0679; email hcpawpals@yahoo.com; write PO Box 1533, Hillsboro, Texas 76645