News: Third Army stresses importance of rabies prevention
Story by Cpl. Christopher Calvert
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Service members must be ready at all times. Whether it’s soldiers engaged in combat operations, or troops supplying vital support; being fully mission capable is essential.
One of the many threats service members encounter while deployed is the viral disease rabies. Although it’s possible to contract the virus while in the U.S., being deployed elevates the risk of coming in contact and being bitten by a wild animal.
“In the Southwest Asia region, rabies is extremely prevalent, especially in dogs,” said Maj. Alisa R. Wilma, Areas Support Group-Kuwait, command veterinarian and a Hayward, Calif. native. “Rabies is 100 percent fatal if the right post-exposure treatment is not given promptly and the vaccine series is not completed.”
The best way to prevent contracting the deadly disease is to avoid animals of all kind while deployed, and report any wild animals seen to the chain of command, Wilma explained.
“As deployed military members, adopting, caring for or feeding wild animals is strictly prohibited,” added Wilma. “The rationale is to protect soldiers from rabies and other risks these animals can pose. If you see stray or feral animals, contact your chain of command so animal control personnel can be notified.”
If an individual comes in contact with a wild animal and is bitten or scratched in any way, Wilma said they must take immediate action to combat the disease.
“If you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal, wash wounds immediately and thoroughly for at least 15 minutes with soap and water,” Wilma noted. “Remember to promptly seek medical attention to begin post-exposure treatment as soon as possible.”
Capt. Robert E. Miller, 994th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) officer in charge, stationed out of Round Rock, Texas and a Tulsa, Okla. native, said it’s not just dogs that service members have to watch out for while deployed.
“While the virus is most commonly associated with wild or stray dogs, it’s important to know any mammal can be a carrier,” Miller explained. “This means that every animal bite should be taken seriously. Almost everyone knows the story of Old Yeller. This is classical rabies, but not every rabid dog looks vicious. Some infected dogs only drool or appear depressed. Other animals can carry rabies up to a year without showing any signs at all.”
Third Army’s commitment to the well-being of its troops remains a priority. Through informing and educating service members about the threat of diseases such as rabies, Third Army is helping keep troops safe and fully mission capable throughout their deployment.