Health & Safety

July 3, 2014

Preventing rabies that come from bites, scratches

Capt. Olatokunbo Akinfe
60th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — With summer months fast approaching and the topic of safety buzzing around base, it is important to remember a key precaution that is often overlooked: rabies prevention. Rabies has been a hot topic in the news this year. To some, however, the disease is still very new.

Rabies is a fatal and aggressive disease that is typically spread through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Rabies can also be transmitted when bodily fluid or feces from an infected animal get into an open wound or onto a mucous membrane, such as your eyes, nose and mouth.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, eventually spreading to the brain and causing death in nearly all of its untreated victims. Rabies can only be found in mammals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of rabies cases reported each year that occur in the United States are from wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Wild animals usually avoid people, whereas the infected animals may attack in the event they feel threatened, are sick, or are protecting their young or territory. Avoidance of unknown animals is considered to be one of the first lines of defense against rabies.

It is important to keep in mind bite wounds from bats are often invisible to the naked eye. It is recommended that even in the absence of an obvious bite wound, or in the event you wake up to find a bat in the room, or see a bat in the room of a sleeping child, you should seek medical attention immediately. Rabies is a very unforgiving disease and it is much better to take all precautionary actions rather than not.

Children under the age of 15 typically account for 50 percent of human rabies death cases. Parents are urged to be extra wary of bites or scratches coming from dogs or cats as children are expected to spend more time playing not only with their family pets but also with stray and possibly rabid animals.

Attacks by pets — whether provoked or unprovoked — tend to be more common than those of wild animals. Just because these cases are more prevalent does not mean they should not be taken lightly. In the event of a bite or potential exposure to rabies, the following measures should be taken immediately:

- Wash the wound or area of contact thoroughly with soap and water.

- Seek medical attention from your health care provider to evaluate your risk for rabies, including whether rabies post-exposure treatment is recommended.

It is important you play an active role in keeping your family as well as the local community safe by ensuring that you keep your pets vaccinations to date. Pet owners that reside on base should schedule an appointment with the base veterinarian to have their pets registered upon their arrival.

To help protect your family, pets, and your community from rabies:

 

· Never approach or handle any unknown, wild, or domestic animals;

· Educate your children on the risks associated with unknown animals and instruct them to never approach any unfamiliar animal, even if the animal appears friendly. Explain that in the event an exposure occurs it is important that they tell an adult immediately;

· Prevent bats, raccoons and other wild animals from entering homes or living spaces by sealing small openings;

· Ensure that unscreened doors and windows are kept closed;

· Do not feed wild or stray animals, and discourage them from seeking food near your home by not storing foods outdoors & covering trashcans;

· Do not allow pets to roam free. Keep pets on a leash, unless in designated areas, and;

· Make sure pet immunizations are kept up-to-date by contacting the your local veterinarian office.

If the animal is available following exposure, contact your local pest management or animal control office in order to collect the animal and arrange quarantine or submit for testing.

For more information on rabies and rabies prevention, please visit www.cdc.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabiesandkids.




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