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Seek Immediate Treatment if Rabies Suspected

Armen Hareyan's picture


If you're bitten by an animal - cat, dog, ferret, raccoon or bat -- do you need to worry about rabies?

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. It's spread in the saliva of infected animals. Because rabies is so severe, it's critical to take the proper steps after contact with a potentially rabid animal.

The December issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers advice on rabies prevention.

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Consider unprovoked bites from wild animals to be potentially rabid. Try to capture the wild animal - if it's safe to do so - so it can be tested for rabies. Testing involves destroying the animal and examining the brain tissue.

In the event of unprovoked bites from a domestic dog, cat or ferret, especially if it is acting ill, the animal should be confined for 10 days and observed by a veterinarian for signs of rabies.

After a suspect bite, thoroughly wash the wound and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Only a few people in the United States die of rabies each year. But the disease is almost always incurable once established.

Bats are a special concern because they have small teeth that don't always leave bite marks. If you awake to find a bat in your room, or if you find a bat in the room of an unattended child, assume contact has occurred and seek medical advice at once. Try to capture the bat for testing.

If it's determined that rabies is a possibility, treatment must begin at once. Treatment isn't as painful as it once was and is very effective. No one in the United States has contracted rabies after receiving prompt and appropriate treatment after an exposure.