Rabies is a disease, caused by a virus that can infect all mammals, including humans. It is transmitted through contact with the saliva or nervous tissue of an infectious animal-usually through a bite. If an exposed person or animal is not treated quickly, the virus may infect the person or animal and may result in death.
Rabies is almost always fatal to animals and people once signs of disease appear. However, immediate treatment by a doctor after exposure, possibly including post-exposure rabies vaccination, will prevent the development of the disease.
Rabies can infect any mammal. In North Carolina, it is most common in raccoons, skunks, and foxes, and has also been found in dogs, cats, horses, cattle, bats, and other animals. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of animals found to have rabies in North Carolina.
Because it can be fatal, rabies should be considered extremely dangerous. Therefore, it is important to prevent exposure to the rabies virus whenever possible. The best way to avoid rabies is to stay away from animals that appear sick or act oddly and avoid contact with strange animals and wildlife. Since people's pets may be exposed to rabies when they come in contact with other animals, pets should be vaccinated by a veterinarian or certified rabies vaccinator against the disease. To help protect people against rabies, vaccination of dogs, cats, and ferrets is required by law in North Carolina.
How Can You Prevent Rabies?
- Have your pets vaccinated against rabies. Any pets which come in contact with wild animals are at risk. Your veterinarian can vaccinate your pet against rabies. In recent years, confirmed cases of rabies in cats have exceeded the reported cases in dogs in some parts of the United States making vaccination and booster shots critical to your health and that of your pets.
- If your cat or dog has been bitten or attacked by a wild animal or has bites or scratches of unknown origin, call Animal Control to report the incident. Do not touch your pet without gloves. Saliva from an infected animal may be on your pet's coat.
- If your cat or dog has bitten a person, call your local health department or the animal control office to report the incident.
- If your cat or dog is sick, seek the advice of your veterinarian.
- Protect your pets from stray or wild animals. Keep your pets from running loose.
- Report stray animals to Animal Control so an animal control officer can investigate. Handling stray cats or dogs can be dangerous.
- A wild animal such as a bat, raccoon, fox, skunk, or groundhog which has bitten a person or domestic animal should be euthanized immediately. Its head (or in the case of a bat, the entire bat) should be submitted to the state laboratory for examination. Rabies prophylaxis vaccinations may depend on your physician along with laboratory results.
What To Do If Bitten
- By a wild animal:
An animal control officer should euthanize the animal. All wild animals that have bitten a person should be tested for rabies as soon as possible.
- By a cat or dog:
Obtain information about the animal. Include a description of the animal, owner's name, address and telephone number, and rabies vaccination status whenever available.
- Immediately cleanse the wound thoroughly with soapy water for 15 minutes.
- Get medical attention. Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room. Do not delay calling. You may need treatment.
- Report all bites to Caldwell County Animal Control.
Minimize Your Risks
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recommends the following steps to minimize your risks of encounters with wildlife around your home.
- Remove food sources, cover materials or vegetation, overhanging tree limbs, or other means of access that initially attracted and are now holding wildlife in your location.
- Establish protective structures or barriers to prevent wildlife from entering and damaging property.
- Humanely remove wildlife from buildings and grounds. (If trapping, transporting or killing wildlife is involved, a Wildlife Depredation Permit will be needed.)
- Permanently repair buildings to prevent re-infestation.
- Monitor buildings and grounds periodically for recurring problems, taking appropriate, immediate attention to control and prevent damage.