Awareness is Key to Preventing Rabies Infection

 Baltimore (April 18, 2013) -- As the weather gets warmer and people and their pets are enjoying more time outdoors, the risk of rabies transmission from animals to people is at its highest. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reminds Marylanders to be mindful of the risk and take the proper precautions.

“Rabies is a serious disease transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal. The best way to protect your family is to vaccinate your pets,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, State Public Health Veterinarian. “We want to remind Marylanders to report all animal bites to your local health department or animal control agency.”

Rabies is most commonly found among wildlife such as raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes, but can be transmitted to domestic animals. To date this year, 88 animals have been diagnosed with rabies in Maryland, including eight cats and one horse. Cats account for the majority of rabies cases in domestic animals in Maryland and in the U.S.

Local health departments offer low-cost animal rabies vaccination clinics for dogs, cats, and ferrets to aid in statewide rabies prevention efforts. Contact your local health department to find out about spring clinics in your area.

When a person is bitten by or exposed to saliva of a rabid animal, the disease is prevented by the administration of a four-dose rabies vaccine series administered over a 14-day period and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of the series. Each year, approximately 900 Marylanders receive preventive treatment after exposure to a rabid or potentially rabid animal.

Animals with rabies often show changes in behavior. Wild animals may act friendly, domestic animals may become aggressive, and animals that are active only at night may appear during the day. Rabid animals may stagger, drool, or become paralyzed. The diagnosis of rabies is made by examining brain tissue from the suspected rabid animal.

To prevent exposure to rabies:

Have your dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, sheep, and cattle vaccinated against rabies.
Keep your pet under your control at all times, especially when traveling.
Enjoy wildlife from a distance and do not feed wildlife.
Avoid sick animals and any that are acting in an unusual manner.
Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave pet food outside.
Do not relocate wildlife.
Prevent bats from entering your home. If you find a bat in your home, do not touch it. Only let it go if you are sure no people or household pets have had any contact with it. Contact your local health department or animal control agency for assistance.
If you or your pet has been bitten or otherwise exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid domestic animal, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number. Contact your local health department or animal control agency immediately.

Additional information about rabies can be found at: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/rabies.aspx.


 

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