Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Common Sense Practices to Avoid Rabies Exposure

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Every year, it is estimated that 40,000 people receive a rabies prevention treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) due to a potential exposure to rabies. Nearly all of the rabid animals reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) occur in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. These animals, including bats, are considered high risk for carrying rabies.  In Utah, bats are the primary carrier of the rabies virus.  However, since rabies is considered 100% fatal once symptoms develop, all potential exposures must be taken seriously.  Not all animal exposures will require PEP.  Unfortunately, most people are given PEP due to close contact with domestic animals, such as cats or dogs. Knowing how to prevent rabies can reduce your risks and save pets from unnecessary grief.

Rabies is spread through the saliva, usually through a bite.  Any time a pet catches, plays with, or even touches a bat or other high-risk animal there is a risk of rabies being spread to the pet.  Because it takes time for the disease to become apparent, pets that are not vaccinated or have a lapsed vaccine status are either euthanized or held at an approved facility for six months—which can cost the owner thousands of dollars.   Additionally, people who are exposed to rabies must undergo a series of injections (PEP) to prevent the deadly disease. 

The Utah Department of Health and local health departments urge all Utahns to avoid the heartache of unnecessarily euthanizing pets and undergoing rabies treatment by ensuring their pets’ rabies vaccines are up-to-date. Utah law requires all domestic dogs, cats and ferrets receive the rabies vaccine. Pet owners are encouraged to check with their veterinarian for information on rabies vaccine.

In addition to vaccinating your pets, following these guidelines can help reduce your risk for getting rabies.
Keep your pets confined. Keep your pets inside and supervise them when outside. This will help keep your pets from coming in contact with wild animals.
Report stray animals to local authorities. Call your local animal control officials to report stray dogs and cats.
Don't approach wild animals. Wild animals with rabies may seem unafraid of people. It's not normal for a wild animal to be friendly with people, so stay away from any animal that seems unafraid. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to animal control.
Keep bats out of your home. Seal any cracks and gaps where bats can enter your home. If you know you have bats in your home, work with a local expert to find ways to keep bats out or contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Services.
Consider the rabies pre-exposure vaccine if you're traveling. If you're traveling to a country where rabies is common and you'll be there for an extended period of time, ask your doctor whether you should receive the rabies vaccine.
Take action if you are bitten. If you are bitten by any animal (domestic or wild), immediately wash the wound well with soap and water and see a health care provider. Contact animal control if you are bitten by an animal, to assist in capturing the animal for observation or rabies testing.

In domestic animals, signs of rabies include: 
behavior changes  
general sickness 
trouble swallowing 
an increase in drool or saliva 
biting at everything, if excited

For more information on rabies, visit

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward