State Health Department Recognizes World Rabies Day

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                     September 28, 2011 is World Rabies Day,

                     a global campaign to spread the word about rabies

                     prevention.  With the theme, Working Together to Make

                     Rabies History!, the World Rabies day initiative was

                     founded by the Centers for Disease Control and

                     Prevention (CDC) and the Alliance for Rabies Control

                     to bring people around the world together to address

                     rabies control and prevention.

                     “Rabies can be prevented through increased awareness

                     and education about the disease, as well as pet

                     vaccinations,” Illinois Department of Public Health

                     Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold said.  “Preventing and

                     controlling rabies starts at the community level.

                     World Rabies Day is an excellent time to talk with a

                     veterinarian about pet vaccinations and learn what

                     animals typically transmit rabies and how to avoid

                     them.”

                     Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of

                     humans and other mammals.  However, rabies in humans

                     is 100 percent preventable.  Humans can get rabies

                     after being bitten by an infected animal or when

                     saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into the

                     eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.  Without medical

                     treatment, rabies is a fatal disease.  If you are

                     bitten or exposed to a rabid animal, seek immediate

                     medical attention.  Treatment includes rabies immune

                     globulin and a vaccine series.

                     In 2010, 117 bats tested positive for rabies in

                     Illinois.

                     “You cannot tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid.

                     The animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit

                     other symptoms to have rabies,” said Connie Austin,

                     state public health veterinarian.  “Any wild mammal,

                     such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat, can

                     have rabies and transmit it to humans.”

                     Changes in any animal’s normal behavior, such as

                     difficulty walking or an overall appearance of

                     illness, can be early signs of rabies.  For example,

                     rabid skunks, which normally are nocturnal and avoid

                     contact with people, may approach humans during

                     daylight hours.  A bat that is active during the day,

                     found on the ground or is unable to fly, is more

                     likely than others to be rabid.  Such bats are often

                     easily approached, but should never be handled.

                     The following tips can help prevent the spread of

                     rabies and protect communities:

                     • Be a responsible pet owner.  Keep vaccinations

                     up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.

                     • Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet

                     if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to

                     a bat.

                     • Call the local animal control agency to remove

                     stray animals in your neighborhood.

                     • Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild

                     animals with open garbage cans or litter.

                     • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your

                     home.

                     • Do not try to nurse sick animals to health.  Call

                     animal control or an animal rescue agency for

                     assistance.

                     • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals,

                     wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.  Do

                     not allow children to take wild animals to school for

                     show and tell.  “Love your own, leave other animals

                     alone” is a good principle for children to learn to

                     reduce the risk of exposures to rabid animals.

                     • Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot

                     gain entry.

                     • If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat

                     outdoors until after speaking with animal control or

                     public health officials.  If you are able to do so

                     without putting yourself at risk for physical contact

                     or being bitten, try to cover the bat with a large

                     can or bucket, and close the door to the room.

                     Information about keeping bats out of your home or

                     buildings can be found by logging on to

                     www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbats.htm.

                     Information about rabies can be found at

                     www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/rabies.htm.