As warmer weather approaches, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health (DPH) encourages North Carolinians to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions while enjoying the North Carolina outdoors with family, friends and pets, to prevent the spread of rabies.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, particularly mammals. In North Carolina, raccoons and bats serve as the source for most rabies viruses. These species may infect other animals such as skunks, red and gray foxes, coyotes, groundhogs and beavers. Any animal infected with rabies poses a human health risk. In 2014, there were more than 350 cases of animal rabies in North Carolina.
“Rabies is a preventable disease,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Carl Williams. “To protect your loved ones, including your pets, make sure you take basic precautions when enjoying time outside this spring and summer.”
Steps you can take to protect yourself, loved ones and pets include:
Vaccinate your pets against rabies and keep the vaccinations current. North Carolina rabies law requires that all owned dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age.
Supervise pets outdoors, and keep all pets on a leash.
Do not feed pets outdoors. Pet food attracts wildlife.
Do not feed wildlife, feral cats or feral dogs.
Secure garbage cans with wildlife-proof lids.
Leave young wildlife alone. If you find a juvenile animal that appears to need help, it is best to leave it alone and call a wildlife professional.
In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure. In most cases, fatality from rabies in infected humans can be prevented by prompt medical attention and vaccination.
If you are bitten or scratched by any animal that could possibly have rabies:
Clean the wound well with soap and running water for 15 minutes and contact your doctor. The doctor will determine if a series of rabies vaccinations will be needed.
Note the location and a description of the animal to provide to animal control.
Do not try to catch any wild animal that bites or scratches you. Call animal control immediately to capture the animal for rabies testing.
If the animal is someone’s pet, get the owner’s name and address and provide them to the animal control officer. Any mammal can transmit rabies. The animal that bit you, depending on the species and circumstances, must be evaluated or tested for rabies.
For more information, including facts and figures on rabies, visit: http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/rabies/figures.html
For recommendations regarding the public and interacting with wildlife, including feeding or rescuing wildlife, visit: www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/WildlifeProblems/documents/Feeding-Wildlife-Hazards.pdf