What is rabies?
Rabies is a fatal viral disease affecting the central nervous system. It is transmitted from infected mammals to man. Transmission is through the bite of an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted by contact with saliva to mucus membranes or an open wound that recently bled. In the United States rabies is prevalent. In Otsego County, animals test positive for rabies every year.
Which animals can be infected with rabies?
Any warm blooded mammals including man can be infected with rabies. Commonly raccoons, skunks, fox, coyotes, and bats have rabies. Domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, ferrets, cows, and horses can also be infected with rabies.
What are common signs of an animal infected with rabies?
A change in an animal’s behavior is usually the first sign of rabies. A wild animal may appear tame or an usually friendly pet may become aggressive. This is due to the virus attacking the part of the brain that controls behavior. Other signs can be staggering, convulsions, frothing at the mouth, paralysis and a change in voice.
What are symptoms of rabies in humans?
Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever and sometimes itching or pain at the site of exposure. The disease eventually progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and death.
How can rabies be prevented in humans?
If you are exposed to rabies through the bite of an infected animal or suspected animal, rabies post exposure treatment is necessary. Treatment for rabies requires prompt scrubbing of the bite, followed by the administration of rabies immune globulin (dosage dependent of weight) and four doses of rabies vaccine given in the arm muscle on days 0, 3, 7, and 14 after exposure. If the wild animal is available for testing, due to the long incubation period, treatment can usually be delayed until rabies is confirmed. Rabies can usually be confirmed in 2-3 days
Rabies is a fatal viral infection!
In both people and animals, once symptoms occur rabies is almost always fatal. The incubation period is the time between exposure and onset of symptoms. This can range from 10 days to months. Once symptoms occur, treatment is ineffective. Due to the long incubation time, disease can be prevented with intervention following a bite. Vaccination of pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) and livestock offers protection against rabies. There is no post exposure treatment for unvaccinated animals and these animals, if in contact with a rabid animal or suspected rabid animal, are required, by NYS law to be euthanized or kept in a double locked quarantine for 6 months at owner’s expense.
What if I am bit by a pet dog or cat?
If you are bitten by a pet, that animal needs to be observed for 10 days for signs of rabies. NYS law requires all dogs, cats, and ferrets to be vaccinated for rabies. Pet vaccination is the first line of defense for humans. Pets may be confined, with the local health department’s approval, at home and observed by owners under the direction of the health department. If you are bitten by a stray dog or cat, that animal needs to be safely captured and sent for rabies testing.
What can be done to prevent the spread of rabies?
Exposure to rabies may be minimized by removing all stray dogs and cats, having all pets vaccinated and staying away from all wild animals especially those acting abnormally. To control the spread of rabies in wild animals such as raccoons, the New York State Department of Health has recently been distributing a form of bait containing rabies vaccine in wooded areas inmunize the animals.
For more information see