Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through certain exposures to the saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal and is nearly always fatal without proper post-exposure prophylaxis [treatment]. Rabies is zoonotic, which means it can spread from animals to people.
In the United States, raccoons are the most common animals to be rabid, followed by skunks and bats.
All dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies. Consider vaccinating valuable livestock and horses. Animals that have frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated.
How to Reduce your Risk of Exposure
- Enjoy all wild animals from a distance. Keep your distance.
- Teach children to avoid touching or handling unfamiliar animals.
- Do not feed or water unknown animals, or leave feeding bowls outside as these may attract wild and stray animals.
- Keep your garbage securely covered to avoid attracting wild or stray animals.
- Do not keep wild animals as pets and if you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to city or county animal control officials.
- Bat-proof your home during the fall and winter to prevent bats from entering your attic or eaves for nesting.
About Bats and Rabies
Bats have small teeth that may leave marks that are not easily seen. Although many people know if they have been bitten by a bat, there are certain circumstances when a person might not be aware or unable to tell you that they have been bitten. These circumstances include:
- If a sleeping person awakes to find a bat in the room
- If you find a bat in a room with an unattended child
- If you see a bat near a person with disabilities
- If you see a bat near a person who is intoxicated
In the above circumstances, safely contain the bat for rabies testing. If the bat tests positive for rabies, or if it is unavailable for testing, the person should seek medical advice regarding the need for post-exposure treatment. Contact your local or state health department for assistance with animal testing and additional information.
What to do if you are Bitten by an Animal
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least 5 minutes.
- Contact your physician immediately.
- Report the bite to the local Health department.
Prompt treatment, if indicated, after a bite can stop rabies infection and prevent the spread of disease.