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Precautions Urged to Prevent Rabies

Public Date: 3/2/2012 12:00 AM
Contact: Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division Manager/Health Officer
Phone Number: 248-858-1410

April 2, 2012 -- Oakland County Health Division urges residents to take precautions against rabies exposure from wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes as warmer weather approaches.

"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. "Although our natural instinct is to befriend a baby animal, pet one that seems friendly or help an injured animal, stray and wild animals should be avoided."

If one of these wild animals is found in or near a home, call the local animal control agency or Oakland County Animal Control at 248-391-4102 for assistance.

In addition, contact a physician or Oakland County Health Division Communicable Disease Unit at 248-858-1286 to assess whether there was a potential rabies exposure. If bitten by any wild animal or stray domestic animal, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention immediately.

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 a person's eyes, nose, mouth or any break in the skin. Vaccine is given to at risk individuals to prevent the disease. Rabies is nearly always fatal if not treated after exposure.

Follow these tips to prevent rabies:
  • Never handle a wild animal like a bat, raccoon, skunk, or fox.
  • 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.
  • Wash animal bites thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention immediately.
  • 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.
  • 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.
For more information, visit the Oakland County Health Division website at

For media inquiries only, contact Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division Manager/Health Officer at 248-858-1410.