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Health Department Notes: Report animal bites to health dept.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. People get rabies from the bite of an infected, or rabid, animal. Wild mammals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, or bats can have and transmit rabies. Domestic animals like dogs, cats, horses and cattle also can transmit rabies to humans. However, domestic animals account for fewer than 10 percent of all reported rabies cases in animals.

It is possible, but extremely rare, to get rabies from exposure to infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, to the eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound.

If you have been bitten, scratched, or exposed to an animal’s saliva:

• Wash the wound right away with soap and water for at least 10 minutes.

• Call your doctor or go to a hospital emergency room, depending on the severity of the wound.

• Provide a description of the animal and, if possible, confine the animal so it can be quarantined or tested.

Report all animal bites and other injuries to humans caused by animals to your local health department. In some areas, your animal control personnel may be involved in the investigation of the incident, including efforts to find the animal. The local health department environmentalist may recommend a 10-day quarantine for dogs, cats or ferrets, but for wild animals, immediate rabies testing will be necessary. Any physician or other attending medical service provider who treats or consults on an animal bite or scratch incident is required to make a report to the local health department within 12 hours. In 2017, the Woodford County Health Department Environmentalist quarantined a total of 48 animals.

If a pet (dog, cat, or ferret) is bitten by a wild animal:

• Wear gloves to handle your pet, so you do not become exposed to the attacking animal’s saliva. Confine your pet or otherwise make sure it does not run away.

• Call your veterinarian and local animal control.

• Any animal bitten by either a bat or wild mammal (in Kentucky usually skunks, foxes or raccoons) that is not available for rabies testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.

It is important to vaccinate your pets. Unvaccinated dogs, cats or ferrets exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to do this, the animal must be placed in strict isolation for six months and vaccinated one month before being released. Dogs, cats and ferrets with current rabies vaccinations given by a licensed veterinarian should be revaccinated immediately and kept under observation for 45 days. Animals with expired vaccinations need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Vaccination of all dogs, cats and ferrets on the premises protects them from the risk of rabies. Approved rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep and ferrets. Animal rabies vaccines should be administered only by, or under the direct supervision of, a licensed veterinarian. Proper and up-to-date vaccination of your pets is your first line of defense against rabies. For more information, please call the environmentalist at the Woodford County Health Department at 873-4541.

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