Pursuant to the Code of Dinwiddie County all dogs and cats over four (4) months of age shall be vaccinated against the rabies virus.
- Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system.
- Rabies can infect any warm-blooded animal.
- There is no cure for rabies, and it is almost always fatal. Once clinical signs occur, an infected animal usually dies within five days.
- The only way to test for rabies is by examination of the brain tissue of a dead animal. There is no way to test for rabies infection in a live animal.
- Rabies virus is spread by contact with the saliva of an infected animal. Transmission is usually through a bite wound, but the disease has been known to spread through a scratch or an existing open wound.
- The incubation period -- the period of time between exposure to a disease and the onset of clinical signs -- for rabies can vary greatly. The typical incubation period is three to eight weeks, but it can be as little as nine days or as long as several years in some rare cases. The incubation period depends on several factors, including the location of the entry wound, the severity of the wound and the animal’s immune system. In general, the farther the wound is from the brain, the longer the incubation period will be.
- An infected animal can only transmit rabies after the onset of clinical signs.
- Rabies is endemic throughout the continental United States. Hawaii is the only rabies-free state. Rabies is most prevalent along the East Coast from Florida to Maine and in southern Arizona along the Mexican border.
- The most common rabies carriers in the U.S. are raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.
- Human rabies cases in the U.S. currently average two per year. Cases of rabies in domestic pets average 400 to 500 per year.
- The early signs of rabies typically include behavioral changes -- the animal may appear anxious, aggressive or more friendly than normal.
- As the disease progresses, animals develop hypersensitivity to light and sound. They may also have seizures and/or become extremely vicious.
- The final stage of rabies is typified by paralysis of the nerves that control the head and throat -- the animal will hypersalivate and lose the ability to swallow. As the paralysis progresses, the animal eventually goes into respiratory failure and dies.
Tips for Protecting You and Your Pets
- Always keep your pet’s rabies vaccine up to date. Puppies and kittens should receive their first rabies vaccination at 12 weeks of age. Pets must be vaccinated again in one year, and then a three-year rabies vaccine is generally administered during the rest of your pet’s life. Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination certificate in an accessible location.
- If your pet bites a person or another animal, consult your veterinarian immediately. Bites to humans shall be reported to the local health department. An animal control officer may contact you to file this report, and you will be required to show proof of your pet’s rabies vaccination.
- If your pet is bitten by another known domestic animal, consult your veterinarian immediately and ask the owner to provide proof of rabies vaccination. If the other animal is not up to date on his rabies vaccine, it is advisable to report the incident to your local animal control authority to ensure that the animal is quarantined appropriately.
- If your pet receives a suspected bite wound from an unknown animal or if your pet comes in direct contact with any wild animal, even if no wounds are evident, consult your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may recommend a rabies booster.
- If you are scratched or bitten by any animal, either wild or domestic, consult your physician immediately and contact animal control. Your physician will report the incident to your local health department and animal control agency as well. If the animal is a pet, ask the owner to provide proof of rabies vaccination.
Reducing Your Risk of Getting Rabies From Wildlife
- Don’t keep wild animals as pets.
- Avoid direct contact with wildlife, dead or alive. Never touch any wildlife with your bare hands. If you find a sick or injured wild animal, call your local animal control.
- Avoid animals displaying unnatural behavior. Wild animals that are unusually friendly or displaying other unnatural behaviors may have the rabies virus.
- Discourage contact between pets and wildlife. Don’t let your pets roam or encourage them to interact with unfamiliar domestic or wild animals.
- Dont leave pet food outside. Leaving food outside often attracts stray dogs, cats and wildlife to your yard.
- Animal-proof your trash. Make sure your trash lids are locked, and don’t leave bags of garbage outside the cans.
- Prevent wild animals from getting into the house. Prune tree branches that overhang the roof. Keep screens on windows and cover small openings, such as chimneys, furnace ducts and eaves.
- Report all stray animals to animal control. Stray animals may not be vaccinated for rabies. They also run a high risk of exposure to wild animals who carry the disease.
- Give your child some guidelines to follow. Do not frighten young children, but make sure they learn some basic rules about protecting themselves from strange or unfamiliar animals.
If you are bitten by any animal, wash the wound thoroughly with warm soapy water. Call your physician. If the animal is someone's pet, get the owner's name and proof of rabies vaccination. Immediately report the bite to animal control and the local health department. The animal must be confined for at least 10 days for observation.