Health And Safety Protection From Rabid Animals

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Late summer marks the busiest time for rabies testing at the Michigan Department of Community Health's Bureau of Laboratories.

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals (including humans), that attacks the nervous system and is virtually always fatal if untreated. In Michigan, bats are the animal most often found to be infected with rabies. Rabies is spread when an animal or human is bitten by an infected animal, or if an infected animal's saliva comes in contact with broken skin or mucus membranes (such as eyes, nose and mouth).

Whenever a person is potentially exposed to rabies from a wild animal, an attempt must be made to collect the animal for rabies testing. Residents should contact their local health department to determine if an exposure has occurred. Your local health department also will provide guidance about the local agency tasked with collecting animals for rabies testing. Animals must be captured in such a way that the brain is preserved for the rabies testing, but no additional people become exposed.

People often will know when they have been bitten by a bat, but their small teeth may not leave easily identifiable marks. Potential exposure also exists when a bat is discovered in the same room as someone sleeping or an unattended child. If you suspect potential exposure to bats, contact your local health department.

There are several steps Michigan residents can take to prevent contracting rabies:

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- Don't feed, approach, touch or adopt wild animals. Don't keep wild animals as pets.

- Never leave infants or young children alone with any animal, and teach children to never approach an unfamiliar or wild animal.

- Install a chimney cap to prevent raccoons and other wild animals from living in your home.

- Seal areas around your home that animals may use as a den, such as an attic, crawl space or areas under your porch or deck.

- Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations. Vaccinated pets prevent the spread of disease between wildlife and people.

- If a wild animal does bite your pet, immediately notify your veterinarian and local health department.

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