Rabies Awareness Week is Sept. 23-29

September 20, 2013

(Culpeper, Va.)The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is partnering with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association to sponsor Rabies Awareness Week, Sept. 23-29, 2013. Last year in Virginia, 562 cases of rabies in animals were reported. The total number of animal rabies cases confirmed so far this year in the Commonwealth is 321.

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, infected cats and dogs or through contact with infected bats.

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 found in the same room with a person sleeping. 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 prevent rabies:

  • Never touch 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 the 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 or