Spring is the time of year when people may come in contact with baby wild animals, such as raccoons; not only are they cute but people may believe the mother has abandoned them. This can be extremely dangerous – rabies is most often seen in wildlife such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the nervous system. The rabies virus is in the saliva and nerve tissues of a sick animal. Baby wild animals may have been infected with the rabies virus and can pass it on to you if you are bitten or scratched by them. Pets, such as cats, dogs and ferrets, can also get rabies if they are not vaccinated.
People usually start to show signs of the disease one to three months after the rabies virus infects them; however, it may take several weeks or even a few years for some people to show symptoms. The early signs of rabies can be fever or headache, but this quickly changes to nervous system signs, such as confusion, sleepiness, or agitation. Once someone with rabies infection starts having these symptoms, the person usually does not survive. This is why it is very important to talk to your health care provider right away if any animal bites you, especially a wild animal.
How can you protect yourself from getting rabies?
Avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals:
- Enjoy wild animals from afar. Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for help.
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
- Prevent bats from entering your home or garage where they might come in contact with people or pets.
Be a responsible pet owner:
- Keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats and ferrets. This requirement is important not only for the safety of your pets, but also for your safety.
- Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance immediately.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your yard or neighborhood. They may not be vaccinated for rabies and could be infected.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
What to do if bitten by an animal:
- Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and running water.
- Seek Medical Attention Immediately, even for minor wounds.
- Immediately confine the pet and contact your veterinarian or local law enforcement.
- If the bite is from a wild or stray animal, DO NOT try to capture the animal unless you are sure you can do so without suffering further injury.
- DO NOT destroy the animal which has bitten a human or other animal. Contact local law enforcement or the Lincoln County Health Department.
- If you have slept in a room, tent, cave, etc... and wake up with a bat in that space, you should assume that you have been scratched and or bitten and take the above precautions.
If an animal suspected of having rabies cannot be observed or tested, or if it tests positive for rabies, treatment of the individual with rabies immune globulin and the vaccine series must begin immediately. Vaccine injections are given in the arm.
For further questions, please contact Lincoln County Health Department at 715-536-0307, 607 N. Sales Street, Merrill or visit http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/