Rabies is a viral infection of the central nervous system. People usually get rabies from the bite, scratch or lick of an infected animal. If rabies is not treated before symptoms begin it can result in death. Most people who get rabies have symptoms two to eight weeks after exposure.
Skunks, raccoons, bats, foxes, and unvaccinated dogs, cats, and livestock can be infected with rabies. The first sign of rabies in an animal is usually marked by a change in behavior. Animals with rabies may become unusually withdrawn or tame and friendly. Some become excited, irritable, aggressive, and may bite or snap. Staggering, convulsions or frothing at the mouth are sometimes seen.
If you are bitten by any animal do the following:
Immediately wash your wound with lots of soap and water. Scrub the bitten area gently.
Get medical help. Call your family doctor or closest hospital emergency room.
Report the incident to the police.
If the animal is alive, try to safely capture it so it can be tested for rabies or quarantined.
If the animal escapes, try to remember what it looks like.
If the animal is dead, save it for examination. Cover your hands with heavy plastic or gloves before touching the carcass. Try not to damage the head.
If the biting animal is a pet dog or cat, get the owner's name, address,and phone number. Find out if the animal has a current rabies shot and write down the rabies tag number.
If your pet or livestock has been bitten by a possibly rabid animal and you must handle your animal within two hours of the incident, wear gloves and afterwards be sure to wash your hands very well with soap and water. Try to capture the possibly rabid animal. Call your veterinarian.
A safe vaccine and rabies immune globulin are available. A total of four injections of vaccine are given over a period of 14 days - usually in the upper arm. You should also get a one time dose of rabies immune globulin along with the first dose of vaccine to provide immediate but temporary immunity until the vaccine gives long lasting protection.
Make sure your dog or cat has an up-to-date rabies shot. Dogs and cats three months of age or older should be vaccinated for their safety and to form a protective barrier between people and wild animals.
Keep your pets confined to your home or yard and walk them on a leash.
Do not encourage wild animals to be close to or in the house. Feed pets inside the house. Keep garbage in tightly closed trash cans. Cap chimneys. Seal off any openings in attics, under porches, in basements and outbuildings.
Do not keep wild animals as pets. Even a baby skunk or raccoon born in captivity can be a rabies carrier.
If you have to touch a dead animal, protect your hands with heavy plastic (gloves or trash bag).
Stay away from all wild animals and unknown dogs and cats.
Avoid wild animals even if they appear friendly.
Never try to coax a wild animal to eat from your hand.
Raccoons are not generally seen during daylight hours.
Healthy bats rarely lie on the ground or on other horizontal surfaces. Children should know this is unusual and report it immediately to an adult.
Children should be taught to immediately report any bite, scratch, or contact with a strange or wild animal.
Do not try to decide on your own whether an animal is rabid or whether a bite could be dangerous. Call the Police, Department of Health and your doctor!
Report animal bites to:
Baltimore County Police Department
Report sick, injured or dead animals to:
Baltimore County Animal Services
Phone: 410-887-PAWS (7297)
Questions about rabies to:
Communicable Disease Division
Phone: 410-887-2723 (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Revised October 24, 2013