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Lynchburg vet may have saved farmer's and family's lives thanks to attention to detail

(Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said a local veterinarian helped save a farmer's family after the death of three calves.

Dr. John Moody with the Lynchburg Regional Animal Health Laboratory necropsied two calves from the same farm that reported three of their four calves in a pen, all different ages, had died on the same day.

Two of the calves were submitted to the lab for a necropsy, an animal autopsy, in hopes of determining the cause of death.

After the initial necropsy, the diagnosis seemed that the calves had died of pneumonia, but Dr. Moody wasn't satisfied and asked himself why three calves died and one survived.

VDACS said in addition, the three calves that died displayed some symptoms not always seen in pneumonia cases, so to be thorough, Dr. Moody continued with a full workup and examination of all tissues.

When VDACS Veterinary Pathologist Dr. Lisa Crofton later examined the thin sections of brain as part of that workup, she identified the characteristic inclusions known as Negri bodies in the neurons, which only appear in cases of rabies, VDACS explained.

Knowing that rabies is communicable to humans through saliva, and is 100-percent fatal, but preventable through vaccination, VDACS said Dr. Moody contacted the local office of the Virginia Department of Health where they interviewed family members and others who might have come in contact with saliva from the calves and immediately provided shots to 15 people.

Later the CDC confirmed rabies in the preserved brain tissue from the calves.

In the meantime, the people involved already had gotten the rabies vaccine due to the quick intervention of Dr. Moody, VDACS said.

“Thankfully, Dr. Moody and others in Lynchburg didn’t stop when they had a diagnosis of pneumonia,” said Dr. Charles Broaddus, State Veterinarian. “They went that extra step, and as a result, 15 people are alive today who potentially could have contracted rabies, a 100 percent fatal disease.”

Dr. Moody told ABC 13 that protecting lives and making change is why he does the job.

"The greatest thrill is to be actually make a difference for the citizens in the state of Virginia to make a difference in people's lives and to make their lives better," he said.

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