Rabies is most often transmitted through animal bites. Most cases occur in wild animals, especially raccoons, bats, coyotes, foxes and skunks. It is preventable through pre- and post-exposure vaccines.
The first symptoms are similar to those of the flu. Symptoms progress to cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion and agitation. Next, delirium, hallucinations and insomnia may be experienced. Once signs of the disease appear, survival is extremely rare.
In the United States, rabies causes one or two human fatalities per year. Fatalities happen when people do not seek medical attention, usually because they were unaware of their exposure.
The most common source of human rabies is bats. Sometimes, people have known encounters with bats. Other times, they are exposed while they sleep. While you cannot tell if a bat has rabies by looking at it, it is very likely that a bat is sick – possibly with rabies – if it is active in the light of day or unable to fly or escape your approach.
Take theses steps to prevent rabies exposure:
- Maintain your pets’ rabies vaccinations.
- Spay and neuter your pets to decrease the number of stray, unvaccinated animals.
- Call animal control to remove stray animals.
- Take steps to keep wild animals out of your home.
If you are bitten, wash the bite area and get medical attention immediately. By law, all bites are to be reported to your local health department for investigation.
If you are bitten by a pet, it is very important that the animal be quarantined to determine if the animal has rabies and if you are at risk. If the animal appears healthy after a 10-day quarantine, the pet will be released.
Contact your local health center to report an animal bite.