It’s a record year for rabies in Virginia Beach – 10 cases so far, more than any year since 2008. Next week is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia, so the Virginia Beach Health Department wants to make sure citizens understand the importance of rabies prevention.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a fatal viral disease that attacks the nervous system. Rabies kills almost all mammals, including humans, that are exposed to it.
How is rabies spread?
The rabies virus lives in the saliva, brain and spinal fluid of the infected animal and can be transmitted through bites, scratches or getting saliva, brain or spinal fluid in a open wound or mucus membrane, such as the eyes, nose and mouth. Only mammals can contract and transmit rabies; birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles cannot. Most likely to contract rabies in Virginia Beach are bats, foxes, raccoons, dogs, cats and some farm animals. Rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice, and pets such as gerbils and hamsters, seldom get rabies.
How can rabies be prevented?
1. Vaccinate pets. Cats, dogs and ferrets need regular vaccinations.
2. Livestock can also be vaccinated.
3. Do not feed or try to handle wild animals.
4. Do not feed or try to handle stray animals.
5. Avoid all sick or strange-acting animals.
6. Cover garbage cans and do not leave pets’ food outside.
7. Do not keep wild animals as pets. It is dangerous and illegal.
8. Do not touch or pick up dead animals.
9. Leave live bats alone and do not handle dead bats.
10. Do not let your pets play with live bats.
11. Bat-proof your home and other buildings with screens and cover up openings.
If you have been bitten, scratched or exposed to the saliva of an animal that might have rabies:
· Do not panic, but do not ignore the bite.
· Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. If possible, capture the animal under a large box or at least be able to identify it before it runs away.
· Do not try to pick up the animal. Call the Virginia Beach Bureau of Animal Control at 385-4444. If contact occurs between any wild animal and you or your pet, contact the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health at 518-2646. If it’s a wild animal that must be euthanized, do not damage the head. The brain will need to be tested for rabies.
· Do not let anyone destroy a wild animal at random just because there may be a rabies outbreak in the area. Only a few animals will carry the rabies virus.
· Call your doctor immediately. Explain the exposure and follow the physician’s advice. If necessary, your doctor will authorize the anti-rabies treatment recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service. Your physician may also treat you for other infections that could arise from the exposure.
· Report the exposure to your local health department or animal control agency. Your local health department along with local animal control will attempt to capture the animal and make sure you receive the proper treatment.
If your pet has bitten another animal or person:
· Tell the person bitten to see a doctor immediately and follow the advice above. The local animal control agency will probably have you confine the animal at your home and watch it closely for 10 days. Report any illness or unusual behavior to your local health department and veterinarian immediately.
· Do not let the animal stray; do not give the animal away. Public health officials must be able to view the animal to determine its health status.
· Do not kill the pet or allow it to be killed, unless instructed by the local health department.
· Check with your veterinarian to find out if the animal’s rabies vaccinations are currently up to date.
· After the observation period, have your pet re-vaccinated.
Virginia Beach Animal Control will hold a reduced-price rabies shot clinic on Oct. 19 from 10 a.m.to 3 p.m. at the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center, 341 S Birdneck Road. Shots that day will be $5. For questions about the shot clinic, contact Virginia Beach Animal Control at 385-4444 and choose option #2. Contact your local veterinarian to see if he or she is participating in low-cost or reduced-cast rabies vaccination shots during Rabies Awareness Week.
For additional rabies information, contact the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health at (757) 518-2646, or visit http://www.vdh.state.va.us/epidemiology/factsheets/Rabies.htm
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