Both public health and Coventry Animal Hospital staff take possible rabies exposures seriously and with good reason. Rabies is a virus that is almost always untreatable and fatal once symptoms begin. Positive wildlife cases have been confirmed in our area.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a virus that requires direct transmission from an infected animal’s saliva to an open wound, such as a scratch or bite. The virus will slowly penetrate to the local nerves and travel to the brain. Once at the brain, it will cause neurologic symptoms in several stages. The initial stage includes a personality change and licking the site of the original bite. Later stages involve the animal becoming overly reactive to sounds and light, hallucinating and becoming aggressive and biting anyone in sight. The last stage involves frothing at the mouth due to an inability to swallow and they become progressively paralyzed, from starting in the back end and spreading up to the muscles that control breathing, eventually leading to death. Once clinical signs start, there is no treatment and it is nearly always fatal. Unfortunately, rabies can be difficult to diagnose, as not all individuals will have these symptoms and other diseases that affect the nervous system can mimic rabies.
Wildlife such as bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes commonly carry this virus and are at risk for spreading it. We recommend against handling these species, as exposure to their saliva may transmit the virus. Any mammal (human, cat, dog, or livestock) that is bitten by these species may be at risk for rabies.
If you are bitten by any animal (wildlife or domestic), we advise you to contact your health care provider or the local District Health Unit (in our case, Perth or Huron County). You also need to contact the Health Unit if you are bitten by your own cat or dog, as it may need to undergo quarantine.
If your pet is bitten by wildlife, please contact our clinic. It is important to keep the vaccine status of all of your pets up to date due to public health risk. Even dogs and cats that are exclusively indoors should be vaccinated routinely.
There is additional information available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check out their educational website for children: http://www.cdc.gov/rabiesandkids/