CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Agriculture destroyed a herd of approximately 80 cattle exposed to rabies in Hampshire County April 3.
“The decision was made after it was determined a significant number of those exposed animals were showing symptoms days after three confirmed cases,” said West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass.
This is a serious health threat to the human and animal population and indicates the probability of additional rabid wildlife in the area. There is little known about the incubation period and transmission of rabies in cattle.
The possibility of cattle incubating the virus for months played a big part in the decision. The unusually high number of symptomatic cattle ruled out an extended quarantine for the herd.
Six people associated with the affected farm are undergoing post-exposure treatment as a precaution after being in close contact with the herd.
The animals were humanely euthanized by employees of the USDA’s Wildlife Services in cooperation with Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service USDA and West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Department employees loaded the carcasses for delivery to a rendering plant. None of the exposed herd will enter the food chain and all precautions to protect workers have been taken.
“This farmer did the right thing by notifying the proper authorities of a suspected rabies outbreak. I applaud him for preventing a serious disease situation for both humans and animals and encourage other producers to report livestock presenting unusual or possible neurological signs,” said Douglass.
Dr. Danae Bixler with the state Department of Health and Human Resources said there is “no ongoing human risk from the situation,” and noted that rabies is only transmitted through direct contact with saliva from an infected animal.