Community rabies knowledge and pet vaccination practices after a skunk rabies outbreak in Eddy County, New Mexico

Carrie S McNeil, Samantha Nagy, Catherine Moonan, Ryan M Wallace, Neil M Vora, Jessie L Dyer, Jesse D Blanton, Tina Dorado, Mark L Heinrich, Robin Sankey, Samantha Uhrig, Angela Cary, Woods Houghton, Paul Ettestad
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2015 June 1, 246 (11): 1242-7

OBJECTIVE: To determine percentages of domestic cats and dogs vaccinated against rabies, identify barriers to vaccination, and assess knowledge about rabies in a semirural New Mexico community after a skunk rabies outbreak.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, door-to-door, bilingual, community-based participatory survey.

SAMPLE: 366 residential properties in Eddy County, NM.

PROCEDURES: The New Mexico Department of Health and CDC administered surveys and analyzed data.

RESULTS: Individuals at 247 of the 366 residential properties participated in the survey. One hundred eighty of the 247 (73%) households owned a dog (n = 292) or cat (163). Cats were more likely than dogs to not have an up-to-date rabies vaccination status (prevalence ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 2.3 to 4.4). Cost and time or scheduling were the most frequently identified barriers to vaccination. One hundred sixty (65%) respondents did not know livestock can transmit rabies, 78 (32%) did not know rabies is fatal, and 89 (36%) did not know a bat scratching a person can be an exposure. Only 187 (76%) respondents indicated they would contact animal control if they saw a sick skunk, and only 166 (67%) indicated they would contact animal control if bitten by a dog they did not own.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Findings indicated that rabies vaccination prevalence among pet dogs and cats was low, despite the fact that the region had experienced a skunk rabies outbreak during the previous 2 years. In addition, substantial percentages of respondents did not have correct knowledge of rabies or rabies exposure.

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