Rabid Animal Investigations
The rabies virus is present in the saliva of a rabid animal. Many wild and domestic animals can be infected with rabies: dogs, foxes coyotes, wolves, and bobcats; also skunks, bats, raccoons, otters, cats, and ferrets.
Small rodents, such as rabbits, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks, rats and mice are rarely infected, and their bites rarely, if ever, call for rabies prophylaxis.
Signs of Rabies in animals include:
- Animals that have a change in behavior.
- Wild animals that seem to be friendly or tame.
- Wild animals--coyotes, foxes, bats, skunks, and raccoons--which you do not usually see in the daytime.
- Animals that have a hard time walking, eating, or drinking.
- Excitement or meanness in animals.
- Animals that bite or scratch at an old wound until it bleeds.
- If a pet is infected with the rabies virus, the way it acts may change. A friendly dog might want to be alone. A shy dog might want attention. Rabid dogs often become mean, roam, make strange noises and attack people and other animals. Rabid animals may drool, and they sometimes swallow stones, sticks, or other things.
- Later, as the rabid animal gets even sicker, it might have trouble chewing, swallowing, drinking or walking. It may not be able to close its mouth, and may appear to be choking. Never try to clear the throat of an animal with these signs. If you see an animal acting this way, call animal control right away.
A human is at risk of rabies if he comes into contact with the saliva of a rabid animal through bites, scratches, or licking of open wounds. Transmission is possible from person to person, however, no case has ever been documented.
It can take from 5 days to more than 1 year, usually 3-8 weeks, to develop rabies in humans. The incubation range depends on the severity of the wound, site of the wound, amount of virus presented, and degree of protection provided by clothing.
Development of rabies disease is almost always fatal. Symptoms begin with anxiety, headache, and fever, and then progress to convulsions and paralysis. Without medical care, duration of illness is a short 2 to 6 days; death is often due to respiratory paralysis.
An animal can pass this infection to other animals or humans from 3 to 10 days before the onset of clinical signs (change of behavior, excitability, paralysis, followed by death) throughout the course of the infection.
You can prevent the spread of rabies by:
- Properly immunize pets and adhering to leash laws.
- Caution children and adults not to feed, provoke or attempt to capture any unknown pet, stray or wild animal.
- Report animal bites to Animal Control:
LaBelle – 863 675 2872
Clewiston – 863 983 1457
- Follow their guidelines for quarantine of animals and treatment for persons bitten.
- Detain and clinically observe for 10 days any healthy-appearing dog or cat known to have bitten a person.
- All wild mammals that have bitten a person should be sacrificed immediately and the brain examined for evidence of rabies (do not shoot in the head).
- Clean any animal bite or wound thoroughly with soap and water, and seeking immediate medical attention. Receiving rabies immunization as indicated by a physician or the Health Department.
If you are bitten:
- Quickly and thoroughly wash the bite with soap and water. Rinse it well. Put alcohol or iodine on it to kill germs.
- See a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will decide if you need treatment to prevent rabies.
- Describe the animal that bit you--the kind, size, and color--to the doctor, the health department, or animal control. Tell children to get help from a policeman, school guard, or other adult.
- Try to locate the animal or keep track of it if you know where it lives. Remember what it looked like.
- The local health authority needs to have the biting dog or cat tested for rabies or quarantined for 10 days. If the quarantined dog or cat is alive 10 days after the bite, it could not have given you rabies.
- Biting skunks, bats, foxes, stray cats, and raccoons must be tested for rabies. If you are bitten by another kind of animal, the local health authority will decide if it needs to be tested or observed for rabies.
For more information please check out all the information the state Web site offers on Rabies Surveillance.