Rabies is a viral zoonosis affecting the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals. Transmission occurs when saliva containing the rabies virus is introduced into an opening in the skin, usually via the bite of a rabid animal. Though rare, transmission could occur through infected saliva contacting mucous membranes or a scratch or other break in the skin.

After the rabies virus enters the body, it begins to multiply in the area near the entry site. If the infection is not stopped at this point, the virus will eventually invade the nerve cells in that area. Once the virus is in the nerve tissue, it travels along the nerve to the brain, where it continues to multiply. The virus may then spread along nerves from the brain to the salivary glands or other parts of the body.

Rabies remains a dreaded disease because it is almost always fatal, plus it is accompanied by distressing clinical signs and symptoms; however, if rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is administered before the virus enters the nervous system, it can be prevented.

You can protect yourself against rabies.

There are many tips you can follow to avoid being bitten and potentially exposed to rabies, such as:

  • Avoid approaching strange animals.
  • Do not handle downed bats.
  • Report bites to the proper officials (for example, the local rabies control authority, animal control officer, game warden, or local health department employee. For children, a teacher or parent is a good reporting resource.)
  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Do not handle sick, injured or dead animals.
  • Teach children how to correctly behave around an animal to avoid being bitten. (For example, in addition to the above tips, teach them to not pull the animal’s ears or tail, tease the animal, bother the animal while it’s sleeping, run past the animal, move toward an unfamiliar animal, or try to play with the mother’s offspring).
  • So far in 2018, two positive cases of rabies have been detected. A skunk and a raccoon in Addison and Windham Counties.
  • In 2017, there were 39 cases of rabies, found in skunks, raccoons, fox, woodchucks, and bats.

Please vaccinate you pets against this dreaded disease.

Dr. Kevin A. Rushing

Executive Director