Animal Bites and Rabies Prevention

Call 503-846-3594 to report bites and rabies exposures.

Animal bites are often unexpected and can happen to adults and children alike. The source of the bite can vary, ranging from domestic pets to wild animals. Animal bites are investigated to evaluate batthe risk of rabies to the individual. If you are the victim of an animal bite, you should seek medical attention. If you are the owner of the animal that has bitten someone, file an animal bite report immediately. Information from the report will be used to evaluate the risk of rabies.  

Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease affecting the central nervous system. The early signs of rabies can be fever or headache, but this changes quickly to central nervous system symptoms, such as confusion, sleepiness or agitation. Once someone with rabies infection starts having these symptoms, that person usually dies within weeks. Fortunately human rabies cases in the United States are rare.

Many kinds of animals can pass rabies to people. Wild animals are much more likely than domestic animals to carry rabies, especially bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes.  Bats are of special concern as rabies carriers in this part of the country. However, dogs, cats, cows or any warm-blooded animal can pass rabies to people.

All warm blooded mammals, including man, are susceptible to rabies. Human rabies is almost always contracted by exposure to a rabid animal. The exposure is usually through a bite, but scratches and saliva contact with broken skin are also possible routes.

It is very important to talk to your doctor or health care provider right away if any animal bites you, especially a wild animal. There is effective treatment to prevent rabies, as long as the treatment is given soon after exposure. You and your medical provider must quickly evaluate your risk. Because medical providers do not want to treat a patient for rabies without solid evidence of exposure, you and your provider must weigh some important factors before treatment:

  • Was the bite from an animal species that is susceptible to rabies? Wild animal bites, especially from bats, skunks or foxes are often suspect.
  • If a domestic animal was involved, was it acting strangely? Was the animal vaccinated against rabies? If the exposure was from a lick, was it near an open scratch, wound, or mucous membrane such as the mouth, nose, or eyes?

If the animal is dead, you should save the carcass for examination (remember to wear gloves if handling an animal carcass).

Prevention

These are some of the things you can do which may lower the risk of being bitten by an animal:

  • Be a responsible pet owner. Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and keep them away from contact with wild animals.
  • Avoid contact and interaction with unknown animals. Even animals that appear friendly can bite if provoked.
  • Avoid contact with bats. If you find a bat during daylight hours, it is most likely unhealthy and should not be touched.
  • Do not feed, try to catch, or play with wild animals such as bats, squirrels, raccoons or rats.
  • Do not disturb an animal while it is feeding or taking care of its young.
  • Avoid playing aggressively with an animal. Even the family dog can bite its owner by accident.
  • Do not stick your fingers into animals' kennels or cages.

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