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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local N.C. DHHS Reminds People To Vaccinate Pets As The Best Way To Avoid Rabies

N.C. DHHS Reminds People To Vaccinate Pets As The Best Way To Avoid Rabies

RALEIGH, N.C. : September 28, 2012 - The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reminded pet owners and all animal lovers on September 28th World Rabies Day that the best way to avoid potential exposure to rabies is to make sure that pets have been vaccinated.
North Carolina has had 341 reported cases of rabies in animals so far in 2012. While the majority of cases have been among wild animals such as raccoons and foxes, even family pets may be infected.
“The potential for exposure to a rabid animal exists in every county, whether you live out in the country or in town,” said State Health Director Laura Gerald. “That is why it is important never to touch or approach a wild, stray or feral animal. It is equally important that all pet owners abide by state law to have pets vaccinated against rabies.”
There have been no reported cases of rabies in humans in North Carolina since 1955 due to strong public health and animal control efforts. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 40,000 people nationwide each year receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis as a precaution because they have been bitten or potentially exposed to a rabid animal. Persons travelling outside the United States should be aware that the risk can be much greater in other countries. Each year, an estimated 55,000 people die from rabies worldwide.
If you have been bitten by any animal:
• Wash any wounds thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and seek medical treatment immediately.
• Contact your local county animal control agency and local public health department so the animal may be collected for testing or observation, if possible.
According to public health officials, raccoons and cats represent the highest number of lab-confirmed rabies cases in the state in wild and domestic animals respectively. However any mammal can be infected, including bats. While most bats do not have rabies, they represent a significant risk of infection as most human cases of rabies in the United States are due to bat exposure. If you find bats in your home, please call your local health department immediately.
North Carolina requires all dogs, cats and ferret owners to have their pets vaccinated against rabies, beginning at four months of age.
For more information, go to: http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rabies.html.
Animals that have a current rabies vaccination at the time of exposure should be re-boostered within five days (2009 Centers for Disease Control guidelines) of exposure. Recommendation is to euthanize exposed animals that are not current with their rabies vaccination.
There are three primary routes of transmission of the rabies virus, which is carried in the saliva of the infected animal: 1) the primary route of transmission is through a bite which breaks the skin of the victim, 2) salivary contact to an open, fresh wound, or, 3) salivary contact to the mucous membranes of a potential victim.
Please maintain a current rabies vaccination for your pet; this is the primary defense against the spread of this fatal disease.
When dealing with primary rabies vectors (raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats) or unknown animals, such as wildlife, it is recommended that the animal be handled with protective gloves to prevent viral transmission.
Personal pets should not be handled without protection directly after being exposed to wildlife, due to the potential for carrying residual saliva from the infected animal. 
You should stay away from any animal that you have not been cleared to hold or pet, including owned dogs or cats, and especially wildlife.
Feeding wildlife is ill advised.  Prevention is better than reaction after the fact of exposure.
In New Hanover County two recent bite cases involving fox bring the total to 148 in overall cases and the 14th and 15th positive cases for 2012.