Animal Bites and Rabies

Rabies is caused by a virus in the saliva of an infected animal.  Any mammal - a warm blooded animal with fur - including bats can get rabies.  In the United States, raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are the main animals that get rabies.  Rabies can be passed on to a human, pet or farm animal by a bite or a scratch from a rabid animal.  If this occurs, follow-up is needed right away.

It’s always best to stay away from wild animals, stray dogs and cats and to be careful with other people’s pets.  People who have been bitten need to see their health care provider about the need for tetanus, antibiotics and to discuss the need for rabies prophylaxis.  The bite must be cleaned well with warm water and soap.

If you see a stray animal, an animal acting strangely or if you are bitten notify animal control for your area.  In Manitowoc County, your local police department has authority for animal control.  And, always make sure your pet is up-to-date with their vaccinations including rabies. 

In the US: Of an estimated 1-3 million animal bites per year in the US, approximately 80-90% are from dogs, 5-15% from cats, and 2-5% from rodents, with the balance from other small animals (rabbits, mice, ferrets), farm animals, monkeys, reptiles, and others.  Some estimate that 1% of emergency visits are for dog bite wounds.  Approximately 1% of dog bite wounds and 6% of cat bite wounds require hospitalization.  Wisconsin state law requires that any dog or cat which bites a person be quarantined for ten days so that it can be observed for signs of rabies.  WI. Stats. Sec. 95.21

What if you wake up to find a bat flying around your bedroom or your child’s room?

DON’T help it fly out the window.  A bat can scratch you in your sleep without you knowing it and expose you to rabies.  For you own safety and to avoid rabies prophylaxis treatment, contain the bat if you can do so without additional risk or exposure.  It needs to be exterminated (without crushing it) and tested for rabies, however, use caution. 

Links and documents:

What You Need to Know If You Have Been Bitten By a Dog or Cat

What You Need to Know If Your Cat or Dog Bites Someone

Bats And Rabies

DNR Bat Exclusion Information

State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services Rabies Prevention Flowchart/Algorithm

Rabies Website - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Rabies Information for Kids - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)