It’s time for the annual rabies vaccination drive in Van Buren County, according to local veterinarian Dr. Ben Mays. The drive will begin on Saturday, May 10. A schedule of times and locations appears elsewhere in this newspaper.

There has been one confirmed case of rabies in the county so far this year, and that was in a skunk, Mays said.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health:

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects the nervous system of warm-blooded animals, particularly mammals. It is usually spread by an infected animal biting another animal or person. Rabies is a fatal disease that almost always leads to death, unless treatment is provided soon after exposure. In Arkansas, rabies lives and circulates in wild skunks and bats. Any mammal can become infected with rabies, including domestic pets such as dogs and cats, agricultural animals such as cows and horses, and people when they are exposed to rabid wildlife.

Arkansas rabies law requires that all dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age by a licensed veterinarian. One shot is not enough; rabies vaccinations must be kept current so talk with your veterinarian about when your pet needs its rabies booster shots.

If you find a bat in your home, isolate it to one room, leave the room and close the doors. Call either an animal control officer or a nuisance wildlife control company to capture the bat for testing. Most human rabies cases in the United States are due to unrecognized or unreported exposures to bats. Most bats do not carry rabies; only about 2-3 percent of bats are infected. But it is not possible to tell if wildlife are infected by looking at them and a laboratory test is needed.

The Arkansas State Public Health Laboratory tests animals for rabies. They test wildlife that has bitten or exposed a person or domestic animal. They also test pets that have bitten or exposed a person, or get sick with signs of rabies or die during a 10-day confinement after biting a person. The laboratory will also test agricultural animals that show signs of brain disease or have potentially exposed a person. The laboratory discourages testing small rodents such as mice, rats, hamsters, etc., as they have never been known to transmit rabies to people and are not considered a risk for rabies exposure.