Rabies is caused by a virus that spreads mainly though bites, scratches, or tissue from an infected animal. Rabies is almost always deadly if not treated before symptoms begin.
Between 2008 and 2017 there were only 23 cases of human rabies reported in the United States, but in 2017 alone there were 4,454 cases of rabies in animals reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Which means education and prevention awareness remain the best way to protect ourselves from the disease.
September 23–29 is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia. Follow these five tips to help ensure you and your family are protected.
1. Get Pets Vaccinated
Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, and ferrets—and keep their vaccinations up to date. Otherwise, if your pet is bitten, you risk having to get them euthanized or quarantined for up to six months.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, between 6:30-8:30 p.m., you can visit the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s (AWLA) rabies and microchip clinic to get a $10 vaccine.
2. Stay Away from Wild Animals
The easiest way to prevent rabies is to stay away from wild, unknown, or aggressive animals. This includes not handling dead animals. In the United States, most cases of rabies occur in wild animals — mainly skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes, and foxes. To request removal of a dead animal that could pose a risk of rabies, call AWLA at 703-931-9241.
MORE: Check out these tips for what to do if you find a bat in your home.
3. Keep Pets Leashed
Don’t let pets roam free. Limit the possibility of exposing your pet to rabid animals by keeping them on your property or by using a leash while walking or playing away from home. Arlington County law requires pets to be leashed when away from home or outside of a County dog park.
4. Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten
If you are bitten, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water and seek medical care. There is a series of vaccines to prevent rabies that you can get after the bite and before symptoms begin. You can also get treatment for other possible infections that could be caused by the bite.
If your pet is bitten, contact your veterinarian for medical care.
5. Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior
If either you or your pet is attacked or bitten by a wild or domestic animal, call AWLA. For human bites, also call the Arlington County Public Health Division at 703-228-5200 and select Option 1.
If you see an animal acting strangely, do not go near it. Report it to AWLA at 703-931-9241.