Rabies Prevention Awareness

Rabies Prevention Awareness

April 12, 2023 in News, Public Health

Rabies is a preventable viral disease. When a person is exposed to the rabies virus, it infects the central nervous system. If the person does not receive the right medical care after a rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, resulting in death.

How can you prevent rabies?

  • Wash animal bites or scratches immediately with soap and water
  • If you are bitten, scratched or unsure–talk to your healthcare provider right away about exposure treatment and/or a rabies vaccine or booster.
  • If you have pets, make sure they are vaccinated against rabies
  • Leave all wildlife alone - do not keep wild animals as pets

Who can get rabies? Anyone can get rabies after exposure to a rabid animal. Rabies spreads when the virus from the animal's saliva (mouth)/neural tissue gets through a person's skin from open cuts or wounds or in the eyes, nose or mouth.

What animals can get rabies? All mammals can get rabies. Wild animals (especially skunks and bats) are more likely to be infected but all domestic animals (such as dogs, cats, horses, and cattle) can be infected. If you or your family are found in rooms with bats, and are unable to state, “I know I was not bitten,” you would be considered potentially exposed to rabies. A bite of a bat can be so small that it may not be seen.

Some animals with rabies may look and act normal, but most will develop one of two distinct symptoms of the disease. “Furious rabies” is where the infected animal is easily over-excited or angered. “Dumb rabies” is when the infected animal becomes very calm and paralyzed (has difficulty moving).

What should you do if you are exposed to a rabid animal or bitten by an animal? Immediately wash all bite wounds and scratches with soap and water. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to find out if you need exposure treatment and/or a rabies vaccine or booster.

If you are bitten and unsure if the animal has rabies, the animal may need to be euthanized and sent in for testing. There is a specific procedure to follow in order to test the animal for rabies. Please reach out for guidance on this before killing and disposing of animal remains.

For more information and guidance, call the State Hygienic Lab at 800-421-4692 or Delaware County Public Health at 563-927-7551.