Rabies is a deadly viral disease that infects the central nervous system that causes disease in the brain and ultimately death.
The virus is found in the saliva of an infected animal and is transmitted through a bite. The virus can also be transmitted if saliva or brain tissue enters open wounds, eyes, nose, or mouth.
Only mammals can be infected with and spread rabies. The most frequent wild animals that test positive are raccoons, skunks, and bats, but other wildlife can also spread the disease.
Vaccinate Your Dogs and Cats
Protect yourself and others by vaccinating your dogs and cats especially if they are allowed outside unsupervised as they are more likely to com in contact with a rabid animal. Connecticut law states that all dogs and cats over the age of 3 months must be vaccinated against rabies. Pet owners are required to show a vaccination certificate as proof in order to license their dogs. Although cats are not required to be licensed, they are required to be vaccinated against rabies.
What to do if Your Pet Bites Someone
Tell the person bitten to see their doctor immediately and report the bite to the animal control officer.
State law requires that your pet is confined for 14 days, and watched closely for signs of rabies.
Check with your veterinarian about your pet's rabies vaccination status.
What To Do If You Are Bitten
Don't panic; wash the wound thoroughly with soap and running water to reduce the chance of infection.
Call your primary healthcare provider immediately. Explain how you received the bite and follow their instructions.
If bitten by a domestic animal, report the incident to the animal control officer (ACO). The ACO will quarantine the animal to observe for signs of rabies.
If bitten by a wild animal, try to safely capture or restrain it without further risk of exposure. For advice, call the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). For immediate assistance call the police department or animal control. The animal will need to be euthanized before it is submitted for testing. For accurate test results, do not damage the animal's head.
A bat bite may go unnoticed. If a bat is found in the same room as a person who is sleeping, it should be safely captured if possible. Contact the local health department to make arrangements to test the bat or for additional advice. If the bat cannot be captured, the individual should seek treatment.
How To Capture a Bat
Find a small container (box or can) and a piece of cardboard large enough to cover a container opening. Punch small air holes in the cardboard.
Put on leather work gloves, when the bat lands, approach it slowly and place the container over it. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat.
If there has been no contact between the bat and people or pets, hold the cardboard over the container and release the bat outdoors away from people and pets.
If there is any question about contact between the bat and people or pets, save the bat for testing. Tape the cardboard to the container, securing the bat inside and contact your local health department to have the bat tested.
Signs and Symptoms of Rabies
Symptoms of rabies are similar to those of other illnesses - general weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache. These symptoms may last for days.
Discomfort or a prickling or itching sensation at the site of the bite, progressing within days to symptoms of cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation. As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and insomnia.
The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.
If you have been bitten by an animal known to have rabies, you will receive a series of shots to prevent the rabies virus from infecting you. If the animal cannot be found, it is safest to assume that it has rabies.
Rabies shots include:
- A fast acting shot (rabies immune globulin) to prevent the virus from infecting you. Part of this injection is given near the area where the animal bit you and as soon as possible.
- A series of rabies vaccines to help your body learn to identify and fight the rabies virus. Rabies vaccines are given as injections in your arm and you will receive four injections over 14 days.
What You Can Do To Help Control Rabies
Ensure that your pets are safe by keeping their vaccinations up to date.
Do not leave food outside your home and make sure that you secure garbage can lids to avoid attracting wild animals.
If you see a wild animal acting strange, report it to police or DEEP.
If your pet has been bitten or had contact with a potentially rabid wild animal, wear gloves to examine or wash your pet. Contact your veterinarian and local animal control officer for further advice.
Resources and Important Contact Information
The Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program
- For questions regarding human exposures call: (860) 509-7994 or visit www.ct.gov/dph
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Wildlife Division
- For questions regarding wildlife call: (860) 424-3011 or visit www.ct.gov/deep
- For immediate assistance call: (203) 254-4857
Fairfield Health Department
- (203) 256-3020