Let’s use this space this week to share some facts in a bullet fashion:
n Two dogs came into contact with a rabid raccoon recent in the Lumber Bridge area. The rabies vaccination status of the dogs is being checked. If they are current, they can receive a booster and go on about their lives. If they are not current, they will be euthanized or be quarantined at vet’s office for six months at the owner’s expense. One should consider rabies to be endemic to the county and keep animals up-to-date with their vaccinations. A countywide rabies clinic is being held April 12 and April 13 in all six of our local vet offices and vaccinations are offered at a discount.
n The Spay Neuter Incentive Program , which offers reduced rates for these procedures to all residents irrespective of income. will be held March 4 through March 16 at all six veterinary practices in the county. The only way to get a handle on the pet population in the county is to decrease the number of unwanted animals.
n Feb. 7 was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Two figures that jump out at a person are that from 2008 to 2010, black women had an HIV infection rate that was 20 times more than a white woman and black men had a rate 6.6 times higher than whites. In black men, male-to-male sexual encounters were responsible for 72 percent of the new infections while in black women 87 percent were infected by heterosexual sex with individuals known to be at high risk for HIV infection. As has been said for the past 30 years, a monogamous relationship — for both partners — and prevention — condoms, etc. — are the keys..
n We might be behind the curve on this one around here, but there has been a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infections linked to pet hedgehogs. As with hamsters, guinea pigs, et al, the key is hand-washing with soap and water after handling the animals, toys, bedding, etc. and prior to handling food or drinks. Children under age 5 and immunocompromised individuals are at increased risks for severe illness. The median age of patients was 13 and one individual has died. Several states have laws prohibiting the ownership of a hedgehog, the closest to us being Georgia; our state has no restrictions. However, adult supervision of the handling of all pets should be the norm.
n At the root of an outbreak in New York City were ciguatoxins (CTX), which are naturally occurring toxins that can accumulate in commonly consumed coral reef fish (barracuda, grouper, snapper, amberjack and surgeonfish). The toxins are colorless, odorless, tasteless, and temperature-stable, making them difficult to detect or destroy. So the outbreak was not dependent upon incorrect food-handling, storage, preparation or procurement methods. Premarket testing of fish for CTX is not feasible as there is no rapid field testing method and there is a sporadic distribution of fish even in endemic areas. It is felt that only 10 percent of the cases are actually reported; in nonendemic areas, diagnostic recognition is low. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, cramping, tooth pain and difficulty walking. The take-home message here is: Be alert when eating these type fish and seek medical attention quickly upon the onset of symptoms.
Bill Smith is director of the Robeson County Health Department.