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Washington Co. Rabies coordinator works with pets, wild animals and victims

November 02, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Pat Travis is very dedicated to her work as the rabies program coordinator for the Washington County Health Department.

"I track all exposure reports in Washington County," Travis said.

Those reports come from area police agencies and the Humane Society of Washington County.

Travis described the incidence of rabies in Washington County as moderate, occurring mostly in wildlife and sometimes in barn cats.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals. It can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected animal or contact with its saliva.

"After I receive a report of exposure, I do the followup with the quarantines of the animals," Travis said.

She also works with victims as part of her duties.

"If the animal is at large, then the victim is sent to Washington County Hospital," Travis said.

The treatment for rabies in those cases must be started in case the animal - which is unavailable for testing - might be positive.

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In the case of wildlife or domestic animals that are captured, the treatment can be delayed pending test results.

In 2006, there were 461 animal exposures reported to the health department - 314 through bites and 147 through exposure to saliva.

Fifteen of those cases tested positive for rabies, Travis said. Ten were raccoons, three were foxes and two were skunks.

Through September, the number of animal exposures was 373, with 235 from bites and 138 from saliva exposure.

Thirteen of those tested positive for rabies - nine raccoons, two skunks, one fox and one cat.

"We have more contact (between pets and wildlife) because of subdivisions edging on forests," Travis said.

She described the summer of 2007 as about average for cases.

Travis came to Washington County from Calvert County, where she was a sanitarian in the health department. She worked in Charles County with the rabies program and at state laboratories in environmental microbiology.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Travis has a degree in chemical laboratory science.

She said she loves living in Western Maryland.

"It's so beautiful, and I really love the people here," she said.

Travis said she enjoys hiking and has been to most of the battlefields, parks and hiking trails.

For more information on the rabies program of the Washington County Health Department, call 240-313-3400.

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