Rabies Alert

September 09, 2014

This has been a busy summer for District Animal Control Officers. They have been collecting wild animals that have been aggressive, tangled with a domestic animal, or flew into the house (bats.) It has also been busy for health district staff, as we assist with transportation of animals to the state lab for testing and counsel those who have been exposed. Since June, there have been 7 raccoons and 2 bats that have tested positive for rabies. Rabies can be transmitted through exposure to the saliva and nervous system tissue from a bite or scratch of a rabid animal.

 The summer will soon be turning to fall, but there is still plenty of time before the hibernation period begins. This information will help you to learn about what to do about contact with bats and other wild animals and how to prevent exposure. The following steps will help you protect yourself, your family and your pets against rabies.

  •  You can maintain a barrier between you and wildlife by vaccinating your cats and dogs (required by law) and keeping their booster shots up to date. Failure to do this can leave you exposed to rabies and if your unvaccinated pet tangles with a wildlife animal (known to be rabid or not), it will have to be removed from your home for a time period of off-site quarantine (at your expense!) or kept at home under strict quarantine procedures. Animal exposures are handled through the local Animal Control Officer in your town. The Health District consults on human exposures. 
  • Maintain control of your pets to reduce their exposure to wildlife. Keep them confined on a leash or within a fenced-in area. Do not leave them outdoors unattended.
  •  Spay or neuter your pet to decrease the number of stray animals.
  •  Don’t feed your pets outside. Be sure garbage cans and other food sources are not accessible to wildlife.
  •  Never touch unfamiliar domestic or wild animals; Avoid direct contact with stray animals; Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. If you see an animal acting strangely, distance yourself and call Animal Control in your town (or your local police department.)
  •  Bats in a house can create difficult scenarios for assessment of human exposure. If a bat in your bedroom wakes you up or if you have a bat in the house, calmly distance yourself from the bat and call 911 for an Animal Control Officer (ACO.) who will try to capture for testing. Do not try to touch the bat with your bare hands and do not release it into the wild. Bat bites can be very tiny and may not be evident. Testing the bat for rabies will help you to decide if you need post-exposure treatment. If the bat is not available for testing, post-exposure treatment is often recommended because bat bites are difficult to find to recognize.  The CDC states that post-exposure prophylaxis can be considered for persons who were in the same room as a bat and who might be unaware that a bite or direct contact had occurred and rabies cannot be ruled out by testing the bat. An example would be a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person and the bat is not available for testing.
  •  If you have a bat in the house, it is important to try to figure out how the bat got in. They are tiny and don’t need much space to get in. Check window screens, door seals, chimney flues and around window air conditioner units. As you remove window units in preparation for the winter, you should consider wearing gloves and watch out for roosting bats under units.
  •  Do not try to nurse sick wild animals back to health. Call your animal control officer or an animal rehabilitator. You can obtain a list of animal rehabilitators from the DEEP website. Go to http://www.ct.gov/deep. Choose “Natural Resources” then “Wildlife”, then “Nuisance/Distressed Wildlife”, last “Dealing with Distressed Wildlife” for a list of animal rehabilitators. (You can also learn how to become an animal rehabilitator.)
  •  If you always use gloves when examining your pet for wounds, you will minimize your chance of exposure. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after any contact, even if you have worn gloves.  If your pet is not severely injured, wait until the fur is dry to examine a wound.  The rabies virus dies once dry which takes about 5 hours. (The rabies virus can live in a deceased animal for up to 48 hours.) If your pet gets bitten or has contact with a wild animal, take your pet for a booster shot right away.
  •  If you are bitten, immediately wash and soak in soapy water for 10 minutes, then promptly seek medical attention from your doctor or an emergency room. You should never ignore an animal bite, scratch or saliva contact from a wild animal or an unknown (to you) domestic animal, especially if it seems sick.
  • You should call the Animal Control Officer (ACO) in your town when you have a sick or injured animal on your property; your pet has tangled with an animal and has killed or maimed it; or you have a bat in your house. If you don’t know the ACO phone number you can reach them through your local police department or by calling 911.
  •  You should call the Health District (for your town) If you have questions about being exposed. an exposure to a potentially rabid animal. However, if you are bitten by an animal, you should first seek medical care at your primary care doctor’s office or the Emergency Room. Your doctor can consult with QVHD.

 

 For more information on rabies, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies/.  District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call QVHD, 203 248-4528 for answers to questions. Please note: QVHD does not pick up animals or assist in searching for animals.