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Rabid sheep causes stir at the fair PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 03 September 2010 19:13

No infected sheep ever on the fairgrounds in Imperial

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican


Fair livestock exhibitors and superintendents got a little unnerved early last week when it was learned a sheep that was intended to be shown at the fair had contracted rabies.

While the rabid sheep had been put down before the fair, four pen-mates had already been brought into the livestock barns.

As soon as the owners found out the market lamb tested positive for rabies, the other four sheep were removed from the grounds.

Tests later showed that all four animals brought to the fair tested negative for rabies.

The sheep were 4-H and FFA projects of the three older children of Ryan and Tonya Johnson of rural Imperial.

Mrs. Johnson said her daughter noticed the affected lamb wasn’t eating well during the week before the fair.

They tried some treatments but the animal didn’t respond. Mrs. Johnson said the animal started becoming aggressive in the pen and with the other pen-mates.

This behavior, along with the eating behavior of the sheep, prompted them to call local veterinarian, Dr. Dave Johnsen Sunday night, Aug. 15.

Together, they determined there was something wrong with the animal and decided not to take it to the fair.

The sheep was put down that evening and Johnsen decided to send the sheep’s brain to the lab at Kansas State, where rabies testing is done.

Surprisingly, the test came back positive on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Johnsen realized something wasn’t right with the sheep but said he never really suspected rabies.

He could only speculate on how the sheep contracted rabies.

He said the Johnsons told him they had shot a strange acting skunk about four to six weeks prior.

Dr. Johnsen said it’s possible the skunk could have bitten the sheep but the real cause will likely never be known.


Other four sheep in herd test normal

After the positive test, he notified the Johnsons, who had already checked in the four other pen-mates at the fair that morning.

The sheep were removed from the grounds Tuesday afternoon.

Dr. Johnsen kept the sheep at his clinic, before putting them down for further testing.

Johnsen said the brains of the four other sheep tested normal with no rabies conditions present.

Mrs. Johnson said they would have never brought their other sheep to the fair had they known the one was positive for rabies.

Dr. Johnsen said rabies doesn’t pass from animal to animal so the likelihood the other four animals were infected was very slim.


Family requires shots

While the information the other four tested negative proved to be good news, it didn’t offset the fact that all seven members of the Johnson family had to have rabies shots.

Mrs. Johnson said she panicked when she first heard the lamb had rabies.

There wasn’t a sufficient supply of rabies vaccine in area hospitals so they drove to Denver, where an ample supply existed.

While it was ample for the Johnson family, Mrs. Johnson said their shots took half of the rabies vaccine supply in Denver.

Rabies shots no longer require patients to be vaccinated into the spine with a long needle through the stomach.

However, the first of four treatments are based on the weight of the victim.

While Tonya only required three shots for the first dosage, Ryan required six.

The family will be following up with three additional shots each.

A young neighbor who had played with the sheep also received the vaccine series.


A wake-up call for the fair

Mrs. Johnson said this is a wake-up call to the 4-H council and the fair board as to what procedures are in place if an animal is found to be infected and/or contagious.

While there was some immediate panic about the situation, Dr. Johnsen said the proper precautions were taken by removing the animals from the grounds and having them tested.

Mrs. Johnson said this incident provides the perfect time to review what, if any, procedures are in place to deal with this or a similar situation.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 September 2010 19:14