Piedmont Health District Urges Rabies Awareness

May 22, 2017

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(Farmville, Va.) – The warmer spring and summer months provide a great opportunity to enjoy Virginia’s natural heritage by spending time outdoors.  Greater time spent outdoors may also increase the likelihood that you or your pets will encounter wildlife.  While rabies is diagnosed in certain animals more than others, any mammal can get rabies and rabies kills almost any mammal that gets sick from it.  That’s why it’s important to take some basic precautions to help protect you and your pets from being infected.

One of the best ways you can protect yourself and your animals is having your veterinarian vaccinate your pets for rabies and keeping their vaccinations up-to-date.  Vaccinating domestic animals like dogs, cats and horses, creates a protective barrier between wildlife and humans. If we protect them, we protect ourselves.

Prompt reporting of potential rabies exposures is also an important part of preventing rabies infections. If your pet is attacked or bitten by a domestic or wild animal, you should seek medical attention from your veterinarian as necessary and also report the incident to one of the Piedmont Health District’s local health departments and/or Animal Control immediately. Rabies is less often reported in domestic animals, but it is not unusual for Virginia to report cases in domestic animals including cats, dogs, cattle, goats and horses.

If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water and, if it can be done safely, capture or confine the animal or at least identify it before it runs away, then notify your healthcare provider immediately. You can also protect yourself and your pets by:

  • Appreciating wildlife from a distance
  • Never adopting wild animals as pets
  • Keeping your animals on your property
  • Keeping garbage and pet food inside
  • Teaching children never to approach or handle wildlife or any animal unfamiliar to them.

In addition to known animal bites, it’s important to remember that since bats can also be a source of rabies infection and bat bites may go undetected, your local health department or your healthcare provider should be alerted if:

  • If a person awakes to find a bat in the room,
  • If you find a bat in a room with an unattended child, or
  • If you see a bat near a person with a disability.

For more information, please contact your local health department or visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/rabies-control/