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2012 World Rabies Day

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The Rutherford Polk McDowell District Health Department along with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reminds pet owners and all animal lovers this World Rabies Day that the best way to avoid potential exposure to rabies is to make sure that pets have been vaccinated. North Carolina has had 341 reported cases of rabies in animals so far in 2012. While the majority of cases have been among wild animals such as raccoons and foxes, even family pets may be infected.  Locally in Rutherford County there have been 9 confimred reports of rabies in animals, 2 in Polk County and 1 in McDowell County.

"The potential for exposure to a rabid animal exists in every county, whether you live out in the country or in town," said State Health Director Laura Gerald. "That is why it is important never to touch or approach a wild, stray or feral animal. It is equally important that all pet owners abide by state law to have pets vaccinated against rabies."

There have been no reported cases of rabies in humans in North Carolina since 1955 due to strong public health and animal control efforts. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 40,000 people nationwide each year receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis as a precaution because they have been bitten or potentially exposed to a rabid animal. Persons travelling outside the United States should be aware that the risk can be much greater in other countries. Each year, an estimated 55,000 people die from rabies worldwide.

If you have been bitten by any animal:

  • Wash any wounds thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and seek medical treatment immediately.
  • Contact your local county animal control agency and local public health department so the animal may be collected for testing or observation, if possible.

According to public health officials, raccoons and cats represent the highest number of lab-confirmed rabies cases in the state in wild and domestic animals respectively. However any mammal can be infected, including bats. While most bats do not have rabies, they represent a significant risk of infection as most human cases of rabies in the United States are due to bat exposure. If you find bats in your home, please call your local health department immediately.

North Carolina requires all dogs, cats and ferret owners to have their pets vaccinated against rabies, beginning at four months of age.

For more information, go to: http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rabies.html.

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