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Animal Bites & Rabies

Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort.  For more information on Rabies and the illness it causes, please visit the CDC website.

If rabies is identified early, a series of highly effective vaccinations can be administered. That’s why it’s important to capture and observe the animal that bit you. If the animal cannot be captured, but must be killed, the head should be kept intact so the brain can be examined for signs of rabies.

The standard protocol for accepting a suspect animal includes:

  • Animals involved with biting or scratching humans
  • Animals involved with biting or scratching domestic animals or livestock
  • Occasional environmental "spot check" of areas (surveillance)
  • Unusual situations involving the suspect animal such as a typical behavior

The Rabies Laboratory cooperates with many different public and private providers.  The primary providers are county health departments (sanitarians) and veterinarians.  Some secondary providers include medical facilities, local animal shelters, law enforcement agencies, USDA and the WV Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Rabies testing program serves two purposes:

  1. Screening provides a guideline for the treatment of persons exposed to a suspect animal.
  2. It also provides a valuable epidemiological tool for the tracking and progression of the spread of Rabies in a particular geographical area or in a particular animal species.

If you would like to read the WV Rabies Control Guide, click here.

For more information on rabies in West Virginia, click here.


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