Animal health workers are trying to stem another outbreak of rabies among cattle in Upala, northern Costa Rica.
The agency, Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal, said that four cows already have died of the paralytic form of the disease. Efforts will be made to reduce the population of bats, which are vectors for the disease, it said.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects warm-blooded creatures, including humans by attacking the nervous system. As the disease takes hold, the afflicted will exhibit impeded coordination, difficulty walking, increased salivation and paralysis of the lower legs, making the victim unable to stand upright. The final stage is death.
A vaccine is available for cows, but some ranchers do not take advantage of this protection. The animal health agency said that 1,186 cows and 27 horses are on the farms where the disease has been discovered. All are under quarantine.
Dogs as well as humans can catch the disease. In the 1960s when a vaccine was not available, Costa Rican cattle ranchers lost 10,000 head, according to statistics from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
Such outbreaks happen periodically. News files show that there were two in 2011 in Caño Negro in Alajuela Province and in Rio Cuarto de Grecia. There was another at Potrero Grande de Buenos Aires de Puntarenas this June.
The current outbreak is in the northern section of Alajuela province in the Aguas Claras area, the animal health agency said.
Symptoms are slow to develop, and there is the possibility that more animals are infected.
The Ministerio de Salud also is involved now to provide vaccinations to those who work with the animals. Other persons should avoid contact with animals in this area, the animal health agency said.