I decapitated an animal today. Before this gets too much stranger, I will explain why a dogs head had to be taken off and packaged for shipment in a cardboard box: Rabies virus is a 100% fatal, 100% preventable disease, it is a zoonotic disease; meaning it is infectious across various species, in the case of rabies, all mammals. It is transmitted through a vector animal (main source of disease in area) via saliva; ie. a bite. The virus attacks the central nervous system, symptoms of rabies include: hydrophobia, muscle fasiculations, hyper salivation, aggression, self-mutilation, anorexia, paralysis, coma, and death. There is only one way to confirm a rabies infection, and the patient being tested will not ever know the test results. In order to test for the virus, the brain matter must be tested, thus the reason for having to decapitate a dog today. The one good thing about this virus-its preventable.
Rabies is not uncommon on the North Slope, the main vector is the arctic fox, one of the most beautiful, sturdy little animals you could ever have the chance to see. As of lately though, the red fox has been making its way north and has been found to also be a source of exposure to the virus.Global warming at its finest. Dogs are most often tied up outside year round, the fox will come into town when food is short on the tundra, they will fight with the dogs. If there is a litter of puppies exposed, they may go after them. Due to the increased chance of exposure to the bug, the borough requires that rabies vaccines be given annually to pets rather than the traditional three year requirement of most states. As a service to the community, these vaccines are offered at no charge, provided by the state. In some of the villages, Veterinarians, Animal Control Officers, the Army, Coast Guard, will go door to door twice yearly offering vaccines to try to prevent the spread of the disease to pets and possibly humans. There is little, if no reason at all to not routinely vaccinate your pet here on the slope, the consequences of not doing so could truly be fatal for a loved member of your family, even to you. (It should be noted that there have only been 3 confirmed human cases of rabies caused death in Alaska, the last one in 1943, this could be due to the fact that most people when bitten by a wild animal will seek medical treatment and will get post-exposure prophylactic treatment.)
My point is, we as a society have forgotten what it is like to face a disease epidemic. We have become complacent in giving our children too many vaccines for fear of them potentially causing autism, relying on ‘herd immunity’ to protect them. Herd immunity only works if the herd has immunity, this means either exposure to the virus and survival of the disease process, something called natural acquired immunity, or vaccination, artificial acquired immunity. Either way the body is protected against contracting and spreading these viruses through vaccination. True there are individuals, animals as well, that have specific allergies to vaccines, and maybe not to the vaccine, but the preservative, or additives in it, those individuals do have to rely on herd immunity, and the herd should be able to protect.
Vaccination isn’t there just to protect yourself or your own child, your pet, but also a community. Is it fair to expose a child to an infectious disease like Rabies? I think everyone agrees that’s a big fat no, why shouldn’t it be the same with other infectious diseases easily prevented by vaccination. Measles, mumps, polio, rubella, all have vaccines for them and all are very dangerous viruses, yet parents are willing to forgo the vaccine and risk the chance of their child being exposed to one of these bugs all for the big MAYBE, that might be autism induced by vaccination. Not only are parents taking that risk for their children, but potentially other children and members of the community. It’s easy to think that a vaccine isn’t needed until your child is exposed to a virus that could be fatal. I have looked at a fatal virus as it has consumed another life, I have had to tell people they cannot have their dog back because of a disease that is preventable by vaccination, everyone exposed will have to go through a very expensive, grueling medical protocol on the chance that they may have contracted the virus. I have seen the light go back on in some of these people, the realization that their actions, or lack of; by not following vaccine protocol instilled to protect, have consequences, potentially lethal consequences. I certainly hope that this is not the way that people realize that it the benefits far outweigh the possible side effects of vaccination. I believe in vaccinating my child, I believe in vaccinating my animals. I believe that I am better protecting my son, my pets and my community by inoculating them against deadly diseases. Cut off a few heads, and you just might too.