Warfighters take to the streets for rabies awareness

Story and photos by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — More than 700 service members and civilians participated in the 5k Rabies Awareness Run Oct. 2 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

The run was sponsored by the 64th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., who supplied more than 600 T-shirts for participants.

“There have been rabies awareness runs on nine installations and this was the last event,” said Pfc. Ashley Stinnett, a veterinary food inspection specialist with the 64th Med. Det. and a Granite Falls, N.C., native. 

Stinnett said the races, which took place throughout Iraq, were part of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Rabies Awareness Month. The AVMA held World Rabies Day Sept. 28.

“We’re trying to inform people about the disease,” said Spc. Carlos Hernandez, a human resource specialist with the 64th Med. Det. and a San Antonio, Texas, native.

Master Sgt. Dorothea Goodson, noncommissioned officer in charge of operations for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Chicago native, said she used the run as a training event.

“This is my training for the Army 10-miler,” said Goodson. “I didn’t even know rabies was prevalent here.”

Stinnett said the Army spent $64,000 on rabies treatment in Iraq since January, treating roughly 40 Soldiers and civilians with bites from potentially infected mammals. 

According to the AVMA, rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and is fatal without preventative treatment. A series of vaccinations after exposure to an infected animal can prevent the disease, but once symptoms appear there is no treatment, according to the AVMA.

Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever and itching or pain at the bite site. Eventually, symptoms progress to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions and delirium, according to the AVMA.

The AVMA reports that rabies kills one to two humans every year in the U.S., but kills more than 55,000 worldwide. According to the National Research Council, animal rabies is said to have a low occurrence in Afghanistan and Iran but, in Iraq, infection in dogs is widespread.

To combat this, the Department of the Army has included guidance for deployed Soldiers in general order number one. According to the policy, adopting as pets or mascots, caring for, or feeding any type of domestic or wild animal is prohibited.

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More than 700 service members and civilians participated in the 5K Rabies Awareness Run Oct. 2 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)

 

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Warfighters run to raise awareness of rabies in a 5km race, sponsored by the 64th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) and Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., Oct. 2 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)

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Pfc. Ashley Stinnett, a veterinary food inspection specialist with the 64th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) and a Granite Falls, N.C., native, hands out T-shirts donated by Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. during the 5K Rabies Awareness Run Oct. 2 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.