(Front Royal, Virginia) After a cold, snowy winter, warmer weather is here, and spring is finally within reach. Wild animals become more active, and people and their pets begin spending more time outdoors. That increases the chance for interactions with wild animals, and the potential for exposure to rabies. The Warren County Health Department reminds everyone that the best way to prevent rabies is to avoid interactions with wild animals, and have your animals vaccinated. Unfortunately, rabies is regularly found in wild animals in the area. Any mammal can become infected with rabies, and interactions with wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, opossum, and others put you and your pets and other domestic animals at risk. Please be sure that the animals you care about are protected from rabies by keeping their rabies vaccinations up to date.
The Warren County Health Department has already sent a number of wild animals to be tested for rabies because of the wild animal’s interaction with humans or with domestic animals. Any interaction with a rabid animal is dangerous. While not all, or even most wild animals have rabies, any one of them might. Rabies is preventable in domestic animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets and some livestock through vaccinations, but fatal to both animals and humans once contracted.
The bite of a rabid animal introduces saliva into the body, which transmits the disease to the exposed person or animal. Rabies can be prevented in domestic animals by keeping the animal’s rabies vaccinations up to date. Humans can be protected after an exposure by receiving rabies post exposure treatment. If one of your domestic animals is bitten or otherwise interacts with a wild animal, please notify the animal control officer at once. If you are bitten by an animal, domestic or wild, notify the animal control officer and the health department to learn what steps are needed to protect you from rabies.
The Health Department helps to determine if there is risk of rabies from an exposure such as a bite. The Health Department will test a wild animal that has potentially exposed a person or a domestic animal. If a domestic animal, such as a dog, exposes a human, then we observe the dog for a total of 10 days after the bite to see if the dog develops signs of rabies. If it doesn’t become sick, then there is no risk of rabies from the bite and the dog is released from observation. This is how we determine if there is risk of rabies from any exposure such as a bite. If the biting animal is determined to have rabies, then the person exposed is advised to undergo rabies post exposure treatment to prevent the development of rabies.
The Health Department strongly advises that people take the following steps to prevent families and pets from being exposed to rabies:
- Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies and keep them up to date
- Avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs
- Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs
- Report stray animals to your local animal control agency
- Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home
- Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash
“State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of four months to be vaccinated against rabies,” advises Lord Fairfax Health Director, Dr. Charles Devine. Vaccines can be given as early as three months and one product is approved for kittens at eight weeks. For more information please contact the Lord Fairfax Health District, Warren County Health Department at (540) 635-3159.