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Dead horse had rabies

Washington County farm quarantined

January 31, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The remains of a horse from a property in Washington County tested positive for rabies, Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture issued a hold order, similar to a quarantine, to the property on Cool Hollow Road, said Sue Dupont, spokeswoman for the department.

The hold order, effective Wednesday, will prevent any animals from leaving the property and any new animals from going onto the property for six months, Dupont said.

Agriculture officials believe the horse was bitten by, or came into contact with, a rabid wild animal, Dupont said.

Sheep, goats and a number of cats also live on the property. No other animals had shown signs of rabies, she said.

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Health officials have no way of knowing whether other animals had been exposed to rabies, and the hold order would prevent any further possible exposure, MacRae said.

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.

Larger livestock, when they do acquire rabies, usually do not transmit the virus to their herd mates, MacRae said. Horses might end up passing the virus to their owners, and people almost always seek treatment if they have dealt with rabid animals, he said.

Owners of livestock are encouraged to get their animals vaccinated, said Kim Mitchell, chief of the Division of Rabies and Vector-Borne Diseases in the Center for Veterinary Public Health. The center for veterinary public health is part of the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.

Health officials advise animal owners to keep pets and livestock confined as much as possible to avoid exposure to wild animals, Mitchell said. Confining animals during the night is especially important because raccoons, which so commonly carry rabies, are nocturnal animals, she said.

In 2006 - the last year for which complete statistics are available - two horses in the state of Maryland were confirmed to have rabies. One of the horses was in Queen Anne's County and the other was in St. Mary's County.

During that same year, 414 cases of rabies were confirmed throughout the state, according to Center for Veterinary Public Health statistics available at the center's Web site, www.edcp.org/vet_med. Most of the rabies cases - 272 - appeared in raccoons.

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