Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Anyone can get rabies after exposure to a rabid animal. Rabies is spread when the virus from the animal’s saliva (mouth) gets through a person’s skin through open cuts or wounds or in the mouth or eyes. The chance that rabies infection will result varies with the type of the contact or “exposure.”
What do I do with the animal?
If you have contact with an animal that is suspected of having rabies, please do the following before calling the Health Department:
- Wear gloves when handling the animal.
- The animal must be dead.
- Keep the animal chilled but not frozen until it can be brought in for testing.
- For information on how to process the animal, call the Health Department directly (see numbers below).
- The animal’s brain must not be damaged.
- Specimen needs to be relatively fresh ~ highly recommend submitting the same day as the animal has been killed.
- Wash your hands after handling the animal.
- The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to those of the flu including general weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache. These symptoms may last for days.
- There may be also discomfort or a prickling or itching sensation at the site of bite, progressing within days to symptoms of cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation. As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and insomnia.
- The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive.
- Disease prevention includes administration of both passive antibody, through an injection of human immune globulin and a round of injections with rabies vaccine.
- Once a person begins to exhibit signs of the disease, survival is rare. To date less than 10 documented cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been reported and only two have not had a history of pre or post exposure prophylaxis.
If you feel you or someone in your household has been exposed to rabies, contact the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health 641-421-9300.