Description: Rabies is a viral infection that can affect any animal including humans. In our service area, the most common carriers, called vector species, are raccoons, bats and skunks.
Cause: The rabbis virus is found primarily in saliva and in the tissues of the central nervous system, especially the brain of the infected animal.
It can be transmitted if an infected animal’s saliva or nervous tissue gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound or scratch. Airborne transmission is possible but rare—it’s more of a concern for laboratory workers who handle animals, or in moist caves with little ventilation.
Rabies attacks the nervous system and once symptoms appear, death is imminent.
Symptoms: An animal may be infected with the virus for 2 to 3 weeks prior to showing any symptoms of the virus. Different animals will show different signs of the disease and animals within the same species will show different signs. Unfortunately, you cannot determine whether an animal has rabies purely by there behavior. The only way to prove that an animal has rabies is to test its tissue n a laboratory.
Some symptoms you may see in wildlife:
- Unprovoked aggression (“furious” rabies). Some animals may attack anything that moves, or even inanimate objects.
- Unusual friendliness (“dumb” rabies).
- Animal may stumble, fall, appear disoriented or uncoordinated, or wander aimlessly.
- Paralysis, often beginning in the hind legs or throat. Paralysis of the throat muscles can cause the animal to bark, whine, drool, choke, or froth at the mouth.
- Vocalizations ranging from chattering to shrill screams.
- Nocturnal animals may become unusually active during the day (remember, some daytime activity is normal, especially when nocturnal animals are feeding their young).
- Raccoons walk as if they’re on very hot pavement.
Treatment: It is extremely important to seek medical attention immediately if you believe you may have come in contact with the disease.
If anyone has been wended, disinfect the wound by washing it thorough with soap and warm water, cover the wound with a sterile bandage and apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
Have the animal tested for rabies. If positive, then the infected individual will receive 6 shots in 28 days. The shots are no longer given in the stomach. The shots are now given in the arm.
Prevention: The best prevention is to vaccinate your domesticated animals.
- How are they most likely to encounter rabies? Through an unvaccinated pet, the most common link between rabid wildlife and people. Even indoor cats should be vaccinated because if an infected bat gets inside, the cat will probably chase it. If the bat’s sick, the cat has a better chance of catching it and being exposed.
- A nocturnal animal that’s active during the day is not necessarily rabid. Healthy female raccoons, for example, sometimes feed during the day, especially during the spring, when they’re nursing their young.
- A shabby-looking animal is not necessarily rabid. Could be a nursing female. The young will sometimes pull at her fur as they feed.
- As with other diseases, exposure to the virus does not automatically mean that you are going to get the disease. But there is no way to test or tell whether or not you were infected, and only post-exposure vaccination will prevent rabies from developing.
- Antibiotics will not treat rabies because a virus causes the disease. Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria.