Sullivan Co. health officials urge vaccinations after rabies is found in wildlife

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Tennessee Department of Health officials want pet owners to be on alert for signs of rabies.

“If the animal has rabies, it will die within a ten day timeline,” said Jerry Taylor, an environmental health specialist for the Tennessee Department of Health.

But don’t just look out for your dog or cat. Rabies will initially be found in wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes.


According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in 2018, 30 positive cases of rabies were found in these types of animals across the state. So far in 2019, 16 cases have been reported statewide. Three of those were reported in Sullivan County.

“Primarily here in Sullivan County, this calendar year of 2019, we’ve had three bats test positive for rabies,” Taylor said. “Now we haven’t had any dogs or cats, but that’s not to say it couldn’t happen.”

Taylor said it could happen if your pet is bitten by an infected wild animal. If you see an animal that’s unusually aggressive or out at a strange time, you’re urged to report it.

“An animal that’s normally nocturnal, like a skunk or a fox that you wouldn’t normally see out in the daytime,” said Dr. Anthony Gray, a veterinarian at Colonial Heights Animal Hospital in Kingsport. “If you happen to run across one of those in your yard or out, stay away from it. Call Animal Control and let them know you’ve seen an animal that has suspicious behavior.”

With these confirmed cases of rabies in Sullivan County, the Department of Heath has scheduled Vaccination Clinics on September 26th. Clinics are being held at a dozen sites around the county in honor of World Rabies Day.

Locations such as Colonial Heights Animal Hospital will offer vaccinations at a discounted rate of $10. 

Click here for a full list of Vaccine Clinic locations around Sullivan County

“It’s first come, first serve,” said Dr. Gray. “Just come get in line, bring your dogs and cats. Make sure the dogs are on leashes, and the cats are in carriers. That just makes life a lot better for the veterinarians. We’ll take care of you as you come.”

Dr. Gray said vaccine awareness campaigns have helped keep rabies cases rare among pets. Still, it’s happened recently in the region.

“There was one puppy that tested positive for rabies in Washington County,” said Taylor.

Veterinarians urge you to look out for any sudden changes of behavior in your pet such as seizures, tremors, aggression, or even extreme lack of energy. Pets should be vaccinated every one to three years, depending on vet recommendation. 

“That’s our barrier, between the wild animals and us. So having our dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies is a protective measure for everyone,” said Taylor.

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