Rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the brain and nerves. It is spread through the saliva of a rabid animal, usually when the animal bites or scratches another person or animal. The virus also may get into the body through open cuts or wounds, or through the eyes, nose or mouth.
Prompt treatment can protect a person from getting rabies once bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. Treatment usually involves a series of shots of safe and effective rabies vaccine over several days.
If you have been bitten or scratched:
- Wash the wound right away with soap and water for ten minutes
- Call your doctor or emergency room
- Get a description of the animal
- Call local animal control officer for assistance
Rabies is spread mostly by wild animals. In the United States, rabies is usually found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, woodchucks, and bats. Domestic animals can get rabies by coming into contact with rabid wild animals. You cannot tell if an animal has rabies by looking at them. A rabid animal can appear healthy or even tame. The only way to tell if an animal has rabies is by testing it in a laboratory.
Steps to take in avoiding rabies include:
- Vaccinate your pets!
- Do not feed or handle stray or wild animals
- Do not keep wild animals as pets.
- Keep garbage cans covered to avoid attracting animals
- Do not touch or pick up dead animals
- Leave bats alone