Rabies/Animal Bite

Animal Bite Prevention and Management

Animal bites occur commonly and carry a high risk of infection with various disease agents. Animal bite wounds should be washed immediately and thoroughly with soap and water. A health care provider should be promptly consulted about the possible need for antibiotic treatment, tetanus vaccination and to determine if treatment is needed to prevent rabies.   Because of the possibility of rabies virus transmission, the biting animal should be captured if it is safe to do so. In the case of an owned domestic animal, information on the owner and location of the animal should be obtained.  DO NOT DESTROY OR RELEASE AN ANIMAL THAT HAS BITTEN A PERSON until one consults with a public health official. In nearly all cases, observation or testing of the animal can eliminate the need to administer the series of injections to prevent rabies.

The primary reservoirs of the rabies virus in Wisconsin are bats and skunks.  Domestic animals almost always become infected from exposure to these wildlife reservoirs. Historically, skunks have been the predominant species infected by rabies, but for the past decade, the number of positive bats has exceeded that of skunks.

Facts about Rabies

  • Rabies got its name from a Latin word that means "to rage". That´s because animals with rabies sometimes act as if they are angry.
  • Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord. If it is not prevented, it will cause death.
  • Any mammal can get rabies. It can only be passed to another animal or a person through saliva. You cannot get rabies from blood.
  • Animals with rabies may act differently. It's always best to stay away from wild animals and to be careful with other people's pets.
  • Rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. 

Rabies prevention for pets

  • Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
  • Be sure your pet has their rabies tags and an identification tag with your name and 
  • Keep your dog away from wildlife so he won't be bitten by an animal with rabies. Always walk your dog on a leash so he or she can't run loose. Keep dogs in a fenced yard if they're not on a leash.
  • Call animal control to take wild or stray animals away, especially if you see one acting strangely. These animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
  • If an animal bites your pet, handle your pet carefully so you don't get bitten. Take them to your veterinarian so they can get a rabies booster vaccination. That will help them fight off the disease.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.

Rabies prevention for humans

  • Rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. Yet, more than 55,000 people, mostly in Africa and Asia, die from rabies every year - a rate of one person every ten minutes.
  • The most important global source of rabies in humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs. Children are often at greatest risk from rabies. They are more likely to be bitten by dogs, and are also more likely to be severely exposed through multiple bites in high-risk sites on the body. Severe exposures make it more difficult to prevent rabies unless access to good medical care is immediately available.
  • This major source of rabies in humans can be eliminated through ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, educating those at risk, and enhancing access of those bitten to appropriate medical care.
  • Never touch unfamiliar or wild animals.
  • Avoid direct contact with stray animals. Stray cats and dogs may not have been vaccinated against rabies.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Check for any areas in your home where bats may enter
  • Don't try to nurse sick wild animals back to health. It's great that you want to rescue a sick animal, but call an animal control person or an animal rescue group so they can take care of everything safely.
  • Make sure your trash cans are closed up tight and don't leave pet food out. You don't want to be attracting wild animals near your home.