July 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

What do a raccoon in Dexter, a skunk inMilo, and a raccoon in Sebec all have in common?  They all tested positive for Rabies between February and May of this year!  Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is deadly to humans and to any animal with hair or fur like dogs, cats, cows, horses, raccoons, fox, bats, and skunks. Rabies in wildlife is common in most parts of the country includingMaine.

The Rabies virus lives in the saliva, brain, and spinal cord of infected animals. Rabies is spread when an infected animal bites or scratches another animal or person or if saliva or brain/spinal cord tissue comes into contact with broken skin or gets into the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Animals with Rabies usually act strangely but this is not always the case. Some animals can act shy, fearful or even friendly. Other animals can become mean and aggressive.

If you think you have been exposed to Rabies, wash the wound with soap and water right away. Continue washing for at least ten minutes. Call your doctor right away. Contact the Animal Control Officer if the animal you think might have rabies is a pet. Call the local Game Warden if the animal is wild. If your pet has been bitten or scratched by an animal you think might be rabid, notify the veterinarian and the Animal Control officer or Game Warden.

Rabies in humans is rare. It may take weeks, months, or even years to show any signs or symptoms of Rabies after becoming infected. Once someone with Rabies infection starts showing signs, they usually die. It is very important to talk with your doctor if you are bitten by any animal, especially a wild animal. Treatment for people exposed to Rabies is a combination of vaccine and immunoglobulin injections.

The best action is prevention. Make sure your pets are vaccinated against Rabies. Avoid contact with all wild animals. Never adopt wild animals or try to nurse sick animals back to health. Don’t leave pet food or garbage out to attract skunks and raccoons. Never touch someone’s pet without asking their permission first. Keep your own pet in your own yard to reduce the chance that they will come into contact with a rabid animal. If an animal does bite your pet, take them to the veterinarian so they can get a Rabies booster vaccination to help them fight off the disease. Report sick, stray or strange acting animals to local authorities.

World Rabies Day is on September 28th of each year to promote Rabies awareness. Every year about 50,000 people around the world die from Rabies infection. For more information about Rabies or to find out where rabid animals have been confirmed, visit www.worldrabiesday.org, www.cdc.gov, www.cdc.gov/rabiesandkids, and www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc.

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