RABIES IN THE HEALTH DISTRICT
Although it is early in the warm weather season, there have already been two raccoons testing positive for rabies within the health district. One of these animals was very aggressive and bit a person. While rabies can occur in any mammal, it is most commonly seen in skunks, raccoons, and bats. Small animals like field mice or squirrels rarely, if ever, contract rabies. Because the possibility of rabies in wildlife is very real, you need to be very cautious when encountering wildlife and managing your pets. Follow the safety rules listed below the chart for your family's protection.
This chart illustrates the number of rabid animals that were available for testing. (It does not account for animals that were not available for testing, but may have had rabies.) Once contracted, rabies is always fatal. Because the possibility of rabies in wildlife exists in the health district and State of Connecticut, you need to be very cautious when encountering wildlife and managing your pets. Prevention is the best protection.
10 YEAR RABID ANIMALS BY TOWN 2002-August 2014 (Data from the CT Department of Public Health and QVHD)
RULES TO FOLLOW
- Avoid contact with wildlife, including cute baby animals.
- If you see wildlife in the daytime, especially if the animal is acting unusually, stay away and call the Animal Control officer in your town. Generally, wildlife is nocturnal, but at this time of year, when their babies are born, they make forage during daytime hours. Therefore, a wild animal spotted during the day does not necessarily mean the animal is rabid, but you are advised to use caution.
- If you have a bat in the house, call animal control to capture it so it can be tested. This is especially important if you wake up with a bat in the bedroom or if the bat is found in the sleeping area of a small child or adult who is not able to give reliable information.
- Maintain a barrier between you and wildlife by vaccinating your pet against rabies. (This is required by law for both cats and dogs!)
- Spay or neuter your pet to decrease attraction of stray animals.
- Report ill, stray or unusually-behaving animals to your animal control officer.
- If your pet is in a fight with another animal, wild or domestic and unknown to you, never touch the wound with your bare hands. Use gloves if you need to examine it. The rabies virus is found in saliva and brain tissue of infected animals. Allowing the pet’s fur to dry will further reduce your risk.
- Wash hands with soap and water immediately after any contact with a suspect animal or after inspecting a wound on your pet.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you are bitten by a wild animal or a domestic animal unknown to you.
What is a human exposure to rabies?
The rabies virus, found primarily in the animal’s saliva and brain tissue (not blood, urine or feces), can enter the human body through a bite, scratch, wound or mucus membrane (like the eyes or mouth.) This would be considered an exposure. Bites are the most common means of transmission.
People often ask, “What symptoms should I look for” if they have had a potential exposure to rabies. It is important to understand that rabies is almost always fatal once the disease is established within the body. However, from the time of exposure to the time of the onset of symptoms (establishment of the disease), there is a brief time period in which medical intervention (through vaccines) can prevent the development of the disease.
WHEN TO CALL ANIMAL CONTROL
You should call your local Animal Control Officer when:
- You have a sick or injured animal on your property
- Your pet has tangled with an animal and has killed or maimed it
- You have a bat in your house
WHEN TO CALL THE HEALTH DISTRICT
You should call QVHD when you have questions about 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.
TESTING of ANIMALS
- If there has been human exposure to the animal, it should be tested for rabies
- If there is no human exposure, and your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, there is usually no need to test the dead animal
- Testing may be considered when a pet is not up to date on its vaccinations
BATS IN THE HOUSE
Bats in a house create difficult scenarios for assessment of human exposure. If you wake up and there is a bat in your bedroom, the bat should be captured for testing. Animal Control can assist with this. Do not try to touch the bat with your bare hands. 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 questions on potential rabies exposure, District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can contact QVHD.
Additional Information on Rabies and Bats
Centers for Disease Control