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Pima Medical Institute Students Volunteer at Vaccination Clinic in Mexico

Posted: May 1, 2017 by Jennifer Serling

The veterinary technician oath not only dedicates us to providing excellent care and service to our patients, but also requires us to promote public health. What better way to achieve this than by traveling to the border town of Nogales Sonora, Mexico and providing rabies vaccinations to local dogs and cats?

Recently, Nogales’ public health department asked the Veterinary Technician program at Pima Medical Institute’s Tucson campus if students and instructors could aid them in a rabies vaccination clinic in Mexico. They needed experienced veterinary staff to administer vaccinations. Pima Medical gladly told them yes. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Domesticated animals such as dogs, cats and livestock contract rabies from the bite of an infected animal—typically a wild one. Common wild animals that are frequently seen with rabies are skunks, bats, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.

Nogales is seeing a large number of rabies-infected skunks, which in turns puts their domestic pets and human population at risk. Humans are also at risk when handling animals that carry the rabies virus. The virus itself can be found in the saliva of infected animals, thereby making bites the most common means of transmission.

Common symptoms of rabies in pets include:
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Muscle spasms
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hydrophobia
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Self-mutilation
Rabies is nearly 100 percent preventable by vaccination, and there is no cure. The rabies virus is also close to 100 percent fatal once clinical signs develop. If an animal is suspected to be infected with the rabies virus, it is quarantined or euthanized immediately due to the potential of a public health threat.

Pima Medical Institute’s vaccination clinic volunteers included four veterinary technician faculty who are also Certified Veterinary Technicians (CVTs), three current veterinary technician students, and one veterinary technician graduate.

Pima Medical Institute helps with a rabies vaccination clinic in Nogales, Mexico A group photo of Pima Medical Institute students and instructors who volunteered at the rabies vaccination clinic in Nogales, Mexico.
We began our day on April 22 early in the morning, meeting Dr. Mariana Casal, M.D., who is a Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Officer with the Arizona Department of Health Services Office of Border Health. She explained that because of the rabies outbreak, the Nogales Public Health Department wanted to educate the community on the risks of rabies and slow the number of infections with the vaccination clinic.

We crossed the border by foot and were then picked up by local health department representatives and driven to our fist clinic location. We split up into two groups and each group had a fluent Spanish speaker as well as two veterinary technician faculty members.  

Pima Medical Institute student Shannon Racadio prepares a vaccine at a rabies clinic in Nogales, Mexico. Pima Medical Institute Veterinary Technician student Shannon Racadio prepares a vaccine at a rabies clinic in Nogales, Mexico on April 22, 2017.
The clinics ran from about 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Both our patients and their owners were so wonderful and grateful. We vaccinated 47 dogs and 2 cats. We not only provided information about rabies in humans and animals but also tick prevention, as they are also having problems with two tick-borne diseases.

After a long day working in the warm Mexican sun, we were treated to a scrumptious lunch of burritos, cucumbers with lime, and homemade salsas and guacamole. The Nogales Health Department also presented the entire team with certificates of recognition and gratitude. We were then driven back to the US/Mexico border where we crossed back into the states on foot.

This was an absolutely amazing experience for both faculty and students. We were so awed by the warmth and generosity we received from both the public health officials and the people of Nogales, Sonora. We have been asked to help with future endeavors and cannot wait to return to Nogales again.

I would like to thank my faculty: Katie Foust, CVT, Tarah Zimmerman, CVT, and Natalie Meier, CVT for their leadership and veterinary technical skills.

My outstanding veterinary technician students included Shannon Racadio, Lauren Brooks and Ryann Knipp. Also, huge kudos to Lorena Padilla, a 2014 graduate from Pima Medical’s veterinary technician program. She was such a huge help with her fluency in Spanish. Everyone worked so hard and provided excellent care to the many dogs and cats that we treated.
Jen-Headshot-thumb-(7).jpgJennifer Serling is the Program Director for the Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Assistant programs at Pima Medical Institute’s Tucson campus. She has been a veterinary technician educator since 2007 and a Certified Veterinary Technician in Arizona since 1992. Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Science from the University of Arizona and an Associate of Science degree from Penn Foster College’s Veterinary Technician Program. She is also an adjunct faculty member of Penn Foster’s Veterinary Technology Program, delivering webinars focused on large animal nursing. Jennifer has written two veterinary technology textbooks for Bluedoor Publishing on pharmacology and large animal medicine and nursing and contributed to several others. In addition to teaching and writing, she is a firm believer in giving back to the community and serves on the board of directors for three animal welfare and rescue groups, as well as donating her time to several veterinary charity events throughout the year. Her passion is large animals and she absolutely loves sharing that excitement with her students.

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