Rabies: What You Need to Know

April is Public Health Month and this gives the Health Department the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of the dangers of rabies.  Fortunately, Langlade County has not experienced any active cases of rabies recently, but the rabies virus is out there and it is dangerous.  Rabies is common in wild animals, especially in the skunk, bat, and raccoon. These animals are all around us in the city as well as the country. In our region, the bat poses the most significant exposure risk. The bat can bite any of our pets or farm animals without leaving any evidence until the signs of rabies have begun to present.

Rabies can be transmitted from a rabid animal by a bite or lick over a break in the skin. The virus is present in the animal’s saliva and travels along the nerve’s pathways to the brain, where it causes inflammation that results in delirium, painful muscle spasms in the throat, and other severe symptoms.  Once symptoms develop, human rabies is almost always fatal.  That’s why the single most important and successful action is the vaccination of domestic dogs and other pets.

The most common sign to watch for is unusual behavior for that particular animal, such as unprovoked aggression.  When a person is exposed through a bite or scratch where saliva could enter the body, he/she should immediately care for the wound by washing the area vigorously with soap and water, and seeking medical care if needed.  Every attempt should be made to capture and confine the animal.  If it appears rabid, the animal is euthanized and its brain is examined for the presence of rabies.

In the attempt to keep the members of our community safe from this infectious disease, the Langlade County Board of Health approved an Animal Bite Surveillance System and Rabies Control Plan in August, 1999.  The Rabies Control Plan for Langlade County is the implementation of the WI State Rabies Control Plan as specified in the WI State Statutes.  The responsibilities and consequences of animal ownership are clearly detailed in the plan. Animal owners are reminded that they carry a responsibility to care for their pet by providing rabies and other immunizations to keep the animal healthy.

Any and every animal should be respected at all times. The physical, emotional, and financial pain of an animal bite/exposure from an unvaccinated animal should not be something that any of us has to experience. If you have any questions, call your veterinary clinic or the health department. The Langlade County Health Department’s number is 715-627-6250.

 

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