The Oklahoma State Department of Health is looking for a man who sold Bluetick/Walker Coonhound-mix puppies which may have rabies, as well as those who purchased or even just stopped to pet or play with the dogs at the Bivens Dog Trade on June 9.
The puppies are described as approximately 10 weeks old with black, brown and white markings (see photo – all puppies in the litter have a similar appearance). Health department officials said five or six puppies were offered for sale for $100 each.
The seller, described as a Caucasian male with red hair and a mustache, approximately 6 feet tall, early 50s, medium build, wearing a tan uniform-style shirt, was located south of the entrance where others were also selling dogs. He was selling the pups from a pickup and was accompanied by a young adult male with a slender build and dark hair.
On June 12, one of the puppies that was purchased died. Subsequent testing at the OSDH Public Health Laboratory confirmed the pup was infected with rabies.
Health department officials are urging the seller, those who bought puppies and even those who simply had contact with the puppies, to call OSDH Epidemiologist-on-Call at (405) 271-4060 or (800) 234-5963. Health officials want to assess individuals' exposure and to locate the other puppies from the same litter, which may also have been exposed to the rabies virus.
The reason is simple — untreated rabies are usually fatal, not just in animals, but in humans.
However, there is good news. Lawrence Burnsed, OSDH Acute Disease Service epidemiologist, said those who have been exposed can prevent the disease by taking prompt action.
"Rabies immunizations (shots) are generally effective prior to the beginning of symptoms, which can develop anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks after exposure," Burnsed said. "The sooner we identify those individuals who have been exposed and consult with their health care provider, the better."
Rabies is transmitted through saliva. Burnsed said that doesn't just mean a bite that breaks the skin.
"It can be transmitted through the mucous membranes — the eyes, the nose, the mouth or an open wound, even a small cut or scratch that has not scabbed over," he said.
Health officials said Wednesday that so far this year, there have been 43 cases of animal rabies, including six dogs.