Recently, a bat in Springfield tested positive for carrying rabies. There have been four confirmed cases of rabies in Greene County in the last year, with the most recent case occurring just this month. Because rabies can result in death, knowing how to prevent exposure and keep yourself and your pets safe when encountering wild animals is essential.
Rabies is a serious, but preventable viral disease that is most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Nationally, there are six to eight thousand animals identified with rabies each year. On average, Missouri identifies about 55 animals with rabies per year. Bats and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies, but any mammal can be infected. This can include humans.
Rabies exposure is very dangerous for humans and should be treated quickly based on guidance from medical professionals or epidemiologists. The post-exposure treatment for people exposed to rabies consists of a fast-acting rabies immune globulin which helps your immune system fight infection and a five-dose, post-exposure vaccine series taken over the course of 28 days.
While the best way to prevent getting rabies is to avoid all contact with wild animals, including injured animals, it may not always be possible. Even though wild animals are most known for having rabies, dogs, cats and other pets can also be infected. As a pet owner, it’s vital that your animals are up to date on their rabies vaccines. Not only is it required by law, but it will help prevent your pets from contracting rabies if they come in contact or are bitten by a wild animal.
One of the main signs of rabies is a change in temperament or behavior. For example, a friendly dog might be reclusive, or a night animal might show up in daytime. Other signs of rabies include muscle weakness, stumbling and convulsing. Keep in mind when encountering animals, it might not be obvious they have rabies. There are several stages of rabies and sometimes the signs don’t appear until three to six weeks after the animal is infected.
Because of the severity of rabies, if you are bitten, scratched or exposed to the saliva of any animal (including animals in your home who are not up to date on their rabies vaccination) you should clean the affected area with soap and warm water for 10 to 15 minutes, then seek medical attention to determine what treatment is needed. Inform Animal Control about the bite so they can help you determine the steps to take with the animal.
Sometimes, bats, and other wildlife end up in living spaces in one’s home. In this situation, it’s important to take the proper steps to get them out safely. While collecting wildlife should be left up to an expert, if they are not available, you can take the following steps:
- Immediately leave the room. If possible, trap the animal in the room it was observed in.
- Contact Animal Control or call 911 to let them know you have a wild animal in your home.
- If possible, try to contain the animal in a hard-sided container. You should wear thick gloves when handling the animal.
- After the animal is removed by Animal Control, it is recommended for a wildlife removal specialist to search the area. They can make sure bats or other animals are free from the living or attic space. If found, investigation into their entry location is important. Action must be taken to seal the point of entry to eliminate a risk to the health of the resident.
If you find a wild animal in your home, it’s hard to know how long it has been there. Because of this, it is recommended you seek medical attention. The animal collected should also be tested for rabies. Animal Control officers will coordinate rabies testing through the Missouri-State Public Health Laboratory.
No Greene County residents have died of rabies in several years, but we know the virus exists in our community. To help keep our community healthy, contact Springfield-Greene County Animal Control if you encounter an injured animal or animal showing signs of rabies within Springfield city limits.