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Michigan's First Groundhog Rabies Case Reported in Southfield

Public Date: 6/17/2011 12:00 AM
Contact: Kathy Forzley, Manager/Health Office
Phone Number: 248-858-1410

Oakland County, MI -- Michigan's first ever case of rabies in a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, has been recorded in Southfield, Michigan. Oakland County Health Division was informed today by the Michigan Department of Community Health that they confirmed positive rabies in a groundhog that had bitten a Southfield woman.

Oakland County Health Division urges residents to take precautions against rabies exposure from wild animals such as skunks, bats, raccoons and foxes.

If a wild animal is found in or near your home, call the local animal control agency for assistance and to assess whether there is a potential rabies exposure. If bitten by any wild animal or stray domestic animal, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.

"As wild animals become more active in warmer weather, the possibility of human contact increases," said Kathy Forzley, manger/health officer of Oakland County Health Division. "Our natural instinct is to befriend a baby animal, pet one that seems friendly or help an injured animal. But stray and wild animals should be avoided."

Follow these tips to prevent rabies:

  • Never handle a wild animal like a skunk, bat, raccoon or fox.
  • Wash animal bites thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. 
  • If bitten by a wild/stray animal, capture the animal if possible. Call the local animal control to assist with trapping, testing and/or observation of the animal.  Animal control may also assist with removing stray or wild animals from your yard, home or neighborhood regardless of a bite.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. 
  • Prevent bats and raccoons from entering homes or spaces where people and pets may be present. 
  • If you wake up in a room with a bat present, regardless if there is evidence of a bite or scratch, seek medical attention.  If at all possible, trap the bat for testing.  Do not release the bat.
  • Keep vaccinations current for dogs, cats and ferrets. Keep cats and ferrets inside and dogs under direct supervision.  Consider having your pets spayed or neutered.
Wild animals are more likely than domestic animals to be infected with rabies due to widespread vaccination of domestic animals.  Domestic cats, dogs, ferrets and horses can become infected if they are not vaccinated. Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks or rabbits are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been reported to cause human rabies in the United States.
Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People and unvaccinated animals get rabies from the bite of an infected animal, or if saliva from the animal gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or any break in the skin. Preventive treatment is given to people who are exposed to prevent the disease. Rabies is nearly always fatal if not treated after exposure.
For more information, call Oakland County Health Division's Nurse on Call at 1-800-848-5533 or read the Fact Sheet.