Rabies is a viral infection that is spread through saliva, usually through a bite, but occasionally can be spread through contact with mucous membranes. The virus replicates at the bite wound and then travels up the nerves to the brain. Any mammal can develop rabies. In Minnesota, skunks and bats are the most common wildlife carriers. Rabid animals have the potential to bite and spread virus to humans, livestock, and pets.
There is NO treatment for rabies once clinical signs appear and will result in the death of the infected individual. Clinical signs can vary and can be difficult to interpret as they vary. Some signs can include: staggering, lameness, walking in circles, behavioral changes, paralysis, fearfulness, agitation, depression, lethargy, and even vocalization. Rabid wild animals may attack animals, people, or objects. Rabid nocturnal animals can become active during the daytime hours.
As of September 2017, there have been 24 reported cases of rabies in Minnesota, including: 3 bats, 1 cat, 1 fox, 6 skunks, 1 horse, 1 raccoon. The most common rabies virus carriers in Minnesota are skunks and bats
The best means to prevent the transmission of rabies is to have your pets vaccinated. There are vaccines available for dogs and cats, as well as ferrets and horses. In some instances, livestock may be vaccinated against rabies. Additional things to aid in prevention, include: keeping stray and wild animals away from your pets, do not attract stray or wild animals to your home or yard, do not approach unfamiliar or wild animals, do not keep wild animals as pets, report stray animals or those acting unusual to local animals control, and bat-proof your home. Ensure that you teach small children to stay away from strange animals, do not leave children unattended with animals, and have them ask an adult if they can pet animals that are not their own.
“World Rabies Day (September 28th, 2017) is a sober reminder that throughout the world, an estimated 50,000 people die of rabies each year, mainly as a result of bites from infected dogs,” said Minnesota Department of Health State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Joni Scheftel. “In the United States, a strong public health infrastructure and the availability of rabies vaccines for animals and people have reduced human deaths to 1 to 5 annually. Most of these are from bat strains of the rabies virus.” (MDH, 2017)
What if a bite occurs:
-Wild animal bites a pet:
- Call your veterinarian to determine if rabies is a concern. They may suggest submitting the wild animal for rabies testing. Dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated or have their rabies vaccine be boostered.
-Bites to humans:
- Wash bite with soap and water immediately
- See your physician for evaluation
- Contact the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) at 651-201-5414 with questions, you may be advised to:
- Confine and observe the animal for 10 days
- Submit the animal for rabies testing
- Receive human rabies vaccine series
Minnesota Department of Health. (2017). News release: Minnesotans encouraged to educate themselves to dangers of the rabies virus during World Rabies Day. [online] Available at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/news/pressrel/2017/rabies092617.html [Accessed 28 Sep. 2017].
Posted on September 30, 2017