Wildlife and Rabies
Avoid Wild Animal Bites
Rabies is one of the oldest known viral diseases, yet today it remains a significant wildlife management and public health challenge. Many kinds of animals can pass rabies to people. Wild animals however are much more likely to carry rabies, especially raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. People usually get rabies from the bite of an infected animal. Each year more than 350 raccoons are positively diagnosed with rabies in Pennsylvania.
What To Do If You Are Scratched By A Bat
Another wild animal that is known for causing fatal cases of human rabies is the bat. Nineteen of the 21 people who have died in the US from bat rabies between 1980 and 2006 never knew or reported that they were bitten. The fact that a person can be scratched or even bitten without feeling the minor trauma to the skin is what makes exposure to bats so dangerous. This is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that a person who has had a known or potential scratch or bite from a bat should receive preventive vaccine and immune globulin. Potential situations include: presence of a bat in a room with a small unattended child, a mentally disabled or impaired person, or a person who has been sleeping. There is no need for “rabies shots” if the bat can be caught and is tested negative for the rabies virus.
ECDH Can Help
The Erie County Department of Health (ECDH) can assist anyone who has a need for rabies testing in animals due to human exposure or potential exposure. All such occurrences should be reported to the ECDH Intake Nurse at 451-6700.
The best approach is to prevent the exposure in the first place. The autumn season is the time when bats try to take refuge from the cold in our houses. Older homes with small openings around the attic offer easy access for bats.For in-depth instructions from Penn State University on bat-proofing your home, click here. Together the Erie County Department of Health and its citizens can lower the risk of being exposed to rabies.
Co-authored by Doug Range, Director of Environmental Health and Cynthia Miller, RN,B.C. Communicable Disease Nursing Supervisor at the Erie County Department of Health
This information is distributed by Erie County Department of Health, 606 W. 2nd Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-451-6700, www.ecdh.org