RALEIGH, N.C. Today is World Rabies Day and state health officials encourage North Carolinians to be aware of rabies and take preventive measures, including vaccination of their pets according to law.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease of warm-blooded animals that attacks the central nervous system and inevitably leads to death. In North Carolina, raccoons and bats are the main carriers for rabies virus. Unvaccinated domestic animals, like dogs, cats, horses and livestock may also be infected.
Any mammal infected with rabies poses a human health risk, and in the early stages of the disease it may not be apparent that an animal is infected with rabies. In 2015, there were 339 cases of animal rabies reported in North Carolina. Of these 94 percent were wild animals.
"Vaccinating your pets and keeping the vaccinations current is essential to preventing rabies,"
said State Public Health Veterinarian Carl Williams, DVM. "North Carolina rabies law requires all owned dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age and remain vaccinated throughout their lifetime."
NC law requires counties to offer at least one low cost rabies vaccination clinic per year. Animal Control Agency listings can be found here
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Public Health encourages the following precautions:
If you are bitten or scratched by any animal that could possibly have rabies:
- Vaccinate pets against rabies.
- Supervise pets outdoors, and keep all pets on a leash.
- Do not feed pets outdoors. Pet food attracts wildlife.
- Do not feed wildlife, feral cats or feral dogs.
- Secure garbage cans with wildlife-proof lids.
- Leave young wildlife alone. If you find a juvenile animal that appears to need help, it is best to leave it alone and call a wildlife professional.
- Clean the wound well with soap and flush with running water for 15 minutes and contact your doctor. The doctor will determine if a series of rabies vaccinations will be needed.
- Note the location and a description of the animal to provide to animal control.
- Do not try to catch any wild animal that bites or scratches you. Call animal control immediately to capture the animal for rabies testing.
- If the animal is someone's pet, get the owner's name and address and provide them to the animal control officer. Any mammal can transmit rabies. The animal that bit you, depending on the species and circumstances, must be evaluated or tested for rabies.
World Rabies Day is recognized each year on Sept. 28, and is a day of global public health observance and a time to raise awareness to improve rabies prevention and control efforts. For more information about rabies, including facts and figures on rabies, visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/rabies/figures.html
For recommendations regarding the public and interacting with wildlife, including feeding or rescuing wildlife, visit www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/WildlifeProblems/documents/Feeding-Wildlife-Hazards.pdf
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