HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PETS AND YOURSELF FROM RABIES

Rabies Awareness Week is Sept. 22-28

September 12, 2014

(Warrenton, Va.)—The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will partner with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association to sponsor Rabies Awareness Week, Sept. 22 -28, 2014.

Statewide, 311 cases of animal rabies have been confirmed this year.

  • The Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District has investigated 382 incidents in 2014 involving potential exposures of humans and animals to rabies.
  •   The District has confirmed 16 animal rabies cases in 2014:
    • Culpeper: 1
    • Fauquier: 8
    • Madison: 2
    • Orange: 2
    • Rappahannock: 3

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. You can become infected with rabies through the bite of an infected animal, or by getting saliva from an infected animal into your eyes, mouth or open wound. Rabies is not spread through urine, feces or blood. If left untreated in humans and animals, rabies is fatal.

Bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes are the most frequent carriers of the rabies virus in the United States. However, people are most likely to become exposed through contact with unvaccinated cats and dogs that become infected, or through contact with infected bats. Among domestic animals in the U.S., cats are now the most common carriers of rabies virus.

If you have been bitten by an animal or bat, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and promptly seek medical attention. Bat bites may be too small to recognize, so any skin contact is considered an exposure, as is a bat that is found in the same room with a person sleeping or otherwise unable to report (such as young children). Do not touch or try to pick up a bat or wild animal. Consult animal control or your local health department for advice.

TO HELP CONTROL RABIES:

  • Never touch or attempt to feed unfamiliar or wild animals even if they seem friendly. A rabid animal sometimes acts tame. If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control department and do not go near it yourself.
  • Be a responsible pet owner. Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets and selected livestock. Keep vaccinations up-to-date.
  • If your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild animal, report it to the local health department or animal control authorities. Be sure your vaccinated dog, cat, or ferret receives a booster vaccination.
  • Limit the possibility of exposure by keeping your animals on your property. Don’t let pets roam free.
  • Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. It may attract wild or stray animals.
  • Do not keep or feed wild animals, such as feral cats or raccoons.

For more information on rabies, visit the Virginia Department of Health website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/Epidemiology/DEE/Rabies/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/rabies.