Staying safe from rabies

Staying safe from rabies

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Summer is upon us in Utah, which means the weather is becoming warmer and we’re spending more time enjoying the outdoors.

This also means it is peak rabies season because more animals are also enjoying the weather, which increases the likelihood of human-animal encounters. The word rabies brings fear to the minds of animal lovers, and rightfully so.

Rabies, though rare, can lead to a painful death without medical intervention.

Rabies is a viral disease in mammals that infects the central nervous system and, if left untreated, attacks the brain and ultimately causes death. While any mammal could transmit the disease, the animals most likely to do so in the United States include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks.

It is spread to people from the saliva of infected animals, usually through a bite. Most of the rabies identified in Utah occurs in bats or animals that have been bitten by bats. In the United States, the incidence of rabies has decreased radically over the past 100 years. However, the threat still exists here and abroad.

If a person is infected with rabies, early symptoms include fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease advances, more specific symptoms will begin to show, including insomnia, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. Partial paralysis may set in and the person may have hallucinations and delirium. Death usually occurs within a few days after symptoms appear.

The good news is that rabies can be avoided and prevented through precautionary measures and vaccinations in both animals and humans. The most important measure is to take your pets to a veterinarian for their rabies vaccination.

Keep your home free from bats, and inspect your home for any possible ways outside animals can enter your home. One of the best ways to avoid rabies is to simply avoid contact with wild animals. They might seem friendly, but do not feed or handle them.

Also, protect yourself before traveling abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers to certain countries consider getting rabies vaccinations before traveling.

Consult with Public Health about your risk of exposure to rabies prior to traveling.

If you, a family member, or a friend are bitten by an animal which may carry rabies, seek medical attention immediately. A medical provider needs to determine the risk of rabies and whether or not treatment is necessary.

Even if you know the animal has been vaccinated for rabies, it is important to seek medical attention, since animal bites can become infected and animals can carry other diseases.

For questions regarding rabies, animal bite procedures, and travel risk, contact Public Health at 801-777-7934.

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