Rabies


What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) that is almost always fatal. Rabies in humans is very rare in the U.S., but rabies in animals – especially wildlife – is common in some parts of this country. TOP
How is Rabies spread?
The rabies virus lives in the saliva (spit) and other body fluids of animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. The virus can also be spread if one of these body fluids touches broken skin or a mucous membrane (in the mouth, nose, or eyes). TOP
What kind of animals spread rabies?
The rabies virus can infect any mammal (if it has fur or hair, it’s a mammal), but it only becomes common among certain mammals such as bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons. Rabies is very rare among rodents (squirrels, rats, mice, and chipmunks). Thanks to vaccines, rabies is extremely rare among pets and farm animals. However, a rabid horse has been recently confirmed in Southern Maine. TOP
How can you tell if an animal is rabid?
Rabid animals usually behave abnormally, but signs vary. Some animals may appear shy and fearful, others become aggressive, and some may simply stumble as though drunk or appear lame.
Contact with all wild animals — especially bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons — should be avoided. TOP
What should you do if you think you have been exposed to rabies?
If you have been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, or by a pet or farm animal that has been behaving oddly, follow these steps:

  • Immediately wash the wound with soap and water and continue washing for at least ten (10) minutes.
  • Call your doctor or health care professional as soon as you finish washing. They will help you decide if you need to be treated for rabies. Follow their instructions completely.
  • Contact the Paris Animal Control Officer through the Paris Police Department at 743-7448. If the ACO is not available, explain what has happened to the dispatcher or police officer.
  • The ACO or police officer will need your help in locating the animal that has bitten or scratched you. If the suspect animal is located and captured, it will be sent to the State Health and Environmental Laboratory in Augusta.
  • If your pet has been bitten or scratched by an animal that you think might be rabid, follow the same steps and notify your veterinarian. TOP
What is the treatment for people exposed to rabies?
People who have never had rabies immunizations are given a series of six (6) injections one at a time over the course of one (1) month. Rabies injection shots are no longer given in the stomach muscles. The first injection is antibodies to fight the virus, and the remaining injections are vaccine to ensure long-lasting protection. To work best, the series of injections should begin as soon after the bite or scratch as possible. However, if the animal has been captured and can be tested for rabies, some doctors wait until the test results come back to determine if treatment is truly necessary. TOP
How can you prevent rabies?
  • Be a responsible pet owner. Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies. By law, all dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies. Cats especially need to be vaccinated because they are hunters by nature and often have contact with animals at high risk for rabies. By vaccinating household pets, we can establish a buffer between wildlife and humans.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals, especially bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons. Avoid any animal — wild, farm, or domestic — that behaves oddly, and report it to the Paris Police Department.
  • Discourage wild animals from “sharing your lunch”. Don’t leave pet food or water outside (the rabies can survive for several hours in food or water). Wash pet dishes in hot soapy water. Fasten trashcan lids tightly. Garbage attracts animals like skunks and raccoons that are looking for an easy meal.
  • Teach your children to keep a safe distance from wild animals, strays, and all other animals that they don’t know well. Enjoy all wild animals from a distance, even if they seem friendly! A rabid animal sometimes acts tame.
  • Dogs and cats should not be allowed to roam at large, but should be confined to the owner’s property, preferably on a leash or better yet, within a fenced area. It is against the law to allow your dog or a dog in your care to roam. Confinement to the property will lessen the chances of them contacting a rabid animal.
  • It is against the law to keep wild animals such as skunks and raccoons as pets. There are no approved rabies vaccines for wild animals. Because of their susceptibility to rabies, neither wild nor exotic carnivores, nor bats should be kept as pets. Hybrids (offspring of wild animals bred with domesticated cats or dogs) are considered wild animals.
  • If you have bats living in your house, talk to a professional exterminator or contractor about “bat-proofing” your home.
  • DO NOT handle sick or injured wild animals; call the Animal Control Officer, Paris Police Department, or State Game Warden. If you must handle a dead animal, use heavy gloves, sticks, or other tools to avoid direct contact with blood or saliva.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal, do not try to guess if it is rabid. Call your doctor and the Animal Control Officer for advice. TOP

VACCINATE YOUR PETS!
Incubation Period

  • DOGS 2 weeks to 2 months (average is 3 to 8 weeks)
  • CATS 2 weeks to 6 weeks
  • HUMANS 2 weeks to up to 1 year (average is 2 to 23 weeks)

This period varies depending on the location of the bite, wound, or exposure. Once the virus reaches the central nervous system, the spread is relatively rapid — 48 to 120 hours. The incubation period in wild animals is unknown and extremely variable. TOP
Management of Dogs & Cats that Bite Humans

Vaccinated or unvaccinated dogs and cats that bite a human must be quarantined for at least ten (10) days. TOP

Quarantine Periods

Depending on exposure:

  • Vaccinated animals — up to 45 days
  • Unvaccinated animals — up to 6 months TOP

 

Type of Confinement

Depending on exposure:

Home quarantine up to complete separation and segregation to a State Licensed facility or Veterinary Clinic.
It is so very important to vaccinate your pets for rabies. The quarantine period for a suspected rabies exposure is much longer for unvaccinated pets. TOP
Facts About Rabies

  • Clinical signs usually appear within 15 to 25 days after exposure. It may take as long as one year for the virus to travel to the brain.
  • Rabies can be spread by animals eating the carcass of infected animals.
  • In a frozen state, the rabies virus can last for years.
  • Normally, the rabies virus cannot live in a warm putrefied environment and survives in the body less than 24 hours after death.
  • Post-exposure treatment for humans exposed to a rabid animal can cost over $2,000.00. TOP