What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of mammals. It is usually transmitted by an infected animal's bite or contact with an infected animal's saliva. The incubation period, the period between exposure to the disease and onset of symptoms, ranges from two weeks to many months. Like other viral infections, rabies does not respond to antibiotic treatment. It is almost always fatal once symptoms occur. These symptoms may include behavior changes, like unusual aggressiveness or paralysis (frequently beginning in the hind legs or the throat of an animal). Prompt vaccination following a bite can prevent rabies in humans. Periodic vaccinations in dogs, cats, and livestock, prior to exposure, can also protect animals against the disease.
How can I avoid exposure?
Avoiding encounters with wildlife can reduce the risk of exposure to rabies during an outbreak. Do not attempt to handle or capture sick or apparently "orphaned" wildlife. Avoid animals acting strangely, especially those that act unusually tame, aggressive, or paralyzed. If a wild animal is acting in an abnormal manner during the daylight hours, report the activity to animal control immediately. Report any animal suspected of rabies to Animal Control.
How do I protect my pets?
Make sure that all dogs and cats have up-to-date rabies vaccinations. The rabies vaccination certificate should indicate when booster shots are due. If that information is not available, contact your veterinarian. Dogs and cats will be protected for three years if they are vaccinated after four months of age and receive a booster injection one year later. There is presently no vaccine licensed for use on wildlife or exotic pets.
Rabies vaccinations cause an animal's immune system to develop antibodies, however not all animals develop the same level of immunity. Therefore it is important that owners try to minimize contacts between domestic and wild animals. Keep your property free of exposed garbage, pet food, stored bird seed, and other foods that may attract wild animals.
What do I do if my pet is exposed?
Vaccinated pets and other domestic animals in contact with suspected rabid animals must receive a booster dose of vaccine within 48 hours of exposure. Domestic animals not protected by a current vaccination must be strictly confined for six months or be destroyed immediately. Domestic animals that have been exposed to suspected rabid animals must be boostered for rabies within 48 hours of the contact.
How do I protect my livestock?
Rabies vaccination is available for cattle, horses, and sheep. Although vaccination of all livestock may be too costly, inoculation of valuable animals should be considered. Vaccinate livestock in contact with the general public, in shipment to or from rabies outbreak areas or housed in structures known to be occupied by raccoons, skunks or bats. Barns, fences, and other barriers should be kept in good repair to keep out sick wildlife. Keep doors closed whenever possible, especially at night.
If your animal appears to be sick or acts abnormally, suspect rabies especially in areas affected by an outbreak. Call a veterinarian. Report suspected cases of rabies in animals to Animal Control.
What should I do if I am exposed?
If you are bitten or scratched by a any animal, or get saliva from a rabies-suspect animal into an open wound or onto a mucous membrane, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. Call Animal Control to report the bite. It is CRITICAL to report the bite to Animal Control because rabies treatments may be needed for the person who was bitten & to ensure that the possibly rabid animal is evaluated. Contact with a bat in a closed room can be dangerous. Contact Animal Control for guidance. Disinfect any surface contaminated with tissues or fluids from a rabies-suspect animal with 10% solution of household bleach in water (one part bleach to nine parts water).
A dog, cat, or other domestic animal inflicting a bite should be observed for 10 days after the incident. As long as the animal remains healthy for that period, no risk of transmission exists. If the animal develops signs of rabies or dies during the period, or belongs to a wildlife or exotic species, it must be euthanized humanely and arrangements made for the rabies examination; the animal's head must remain intact. Routine examination of small rodents, rabbits, and hares is not necessary, since these animals are essentially free of rabies. Bats and rabies-suspect terrestrial carnivores should be presumed rabid until confirmed negative by laboratory diagnosis, and, therefore, require urgent and careful handling.
If the rabies-suspect biting animal cannot be observed or tested, or is found to be rabid, treatment must begin immediately. The treatment for humans exposed to rabies consists of a dose of rabies-immune globulin administered as soon as possible after the exposure. The first of five doses of rabies vaccine is given at the same time, with the remaining injections given one each on days 3, 7, 14, and 28 following the initial injection.
Amador County Animal Control Rabies Clinics
Animal Control hosts rabies clinics every year in May and June. These clinics are held in various areas of the county and are advertised each year starting in April.
2016 rabies clinics will be announced soon. Keep checking to find a clinic near you.