I was not aware that today was World Rabies Day until I heard Gordy mention it on the 7:05 News. This brought back memories of what happened to me when I was a dairy farmer. I had a cow that was diagnosed with rabies. She was fine in the morning and I did not notice anything during the day. She came into the milking parlor for the evening milking salivating and quite agitated. Her udder should have been full of milk as she was in peak production. Instead it was like she was in her dry period. I was going to put her in the sick pen to treat her after milking and she could not remember how to push the doors open to exit the parlor.

I thought she had a metabolic disease called Primary Ketosis. Without getting too technical the treatment included putting my hands in her mouth for an oral solution and an I V of sugar water. Getting an I V started included getting her blood on my hands too. The next morning she was worse so I called my veterinarian. The first thing he did was get a urine specimen. He put a stick with a number of little squares on it in the urine. Depending on what color each little square turned he could tell the P H of the urine, if there was sugar in it and so on.

If she had Primary Ketosis one little square should have turned purple. It did not. He looked at me and said "we have a problem, how close did you get to this cow, I think she has rabies!" The veterinarian wanted to make sure the virus had time to reach detectable levels in her brain so he wanted me to keep her confined in the sick stall. The next day she was put down and the head taken to the University of Minnesota Hospital.

The following day we got a call that the cow was positive for rabies. With my hands in her mouth and her blood on my hands there was a pretty good chance I would get rabies too. This happened in the 1980's and the new rabies vaccine was just available. I did not have to get the daily shots in the stomach. I have heard they were quite painful. Instead, I needed 12 cc's of immune globulin, (4 shots in the back side)  and the actual rabies vaccine was like getting a flu shot in the arm. A couple weeks later there was another rabies vaccine shot in the arm.

Rabies is a Reportable Disease so I had Veterinarians from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health on the farm along with Federal Veterinarians. They told me they would not quarantine the farm unless I had another animal with rabies. Fortunately I did not have another one. If you are wondering about food safety and getting rabies from drinking milk, you cannot. Rabies is not transmitted in milk plus a cow stops producing milk when she contracts rabies anyway.

Where or how did the cow contract rabies? Each morning at 4:00 I would get the cows out of the free stalls and into the holding pen for milking. For a number of days in a row I could smell a skunk. I never saw a skunk in the barn but I know what one smells like! I am quite certain a cow was curious and got bit by the skunk but I will never know for sure

The point is rabies is in the environment. According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health the two major carriers of rabies are skunks and bats. It is important that if you have pets, especially dogs and cats talk with your veterinarian about getting them vaccinated for rabies. If you or family members contract rabies it will be fatal.

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