If you have been bitten by an animal seek medical attention immediately, then contact the Amarillo Animal Management & Welfare Department at 806.378.3092 or the Amarillo Police Department at 806.378.3038 to report the bite incident.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a preventable 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. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle and dogs most often reported rabid.
Rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
Is rabies a public health concern?
Over the last 100 years, rabies in the United States has changed dramatically. More than 90 percent of all animal cases reported annually now occur in wildlife: before 1960 the majority were in domestic animals. The principal rabies hosts today are wild carnivores and bats.. The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100 percent successful. In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure.
What is the cost of prevention?
Although human rabies deaths are rare, the estimated public health costs associated with disease detection, prevention, and control have risen, exceeding $300 million annually. These costs include the vaccination of companion animals, animal control programs, maintenance of rabies laboratories and medical costs, such as those incurred for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
What I can do to help prevent the spread of rabies?
Be a responsible pet owner:
- Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets. This requirement is important not only to keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection to you, if your animal is bitten by a rabid wild animal.
- Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood. They may be unvaccinated and could be infected by the disease.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
Avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals:
- Enjoy wild animals (raccoons, skunks, foxes) from afar. Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call your local animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
- When traveling abroad, avoid direct contact with wild animals and be especially careful around dogs in developing countries.
Rabies is common in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America where dogs are the major reservoir of rabies. Tens of thousands of people die of rabies each year in these countries. Before traveling abroad, consult with a health care provider, travel clinic, or your health department about the risk of exposure to rabies, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and how you should handle an exposure, should it arise.
What to do I do after a possible exposure?
If you are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention immediately! A health care provider will care for the wound and will assess the risk for rabies exposure.
The following information will help your health care provider assess your risk:
- The geographic location of the incident
- The type of animal that was involved
- How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
- The vaccination status of animal
- Whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies
After your caretaker is contacted, you must then contact the Amarillo Animal Management & Welfare Department at 806.378.3092 to begin an investigation and check the biting animal for symptoms of rabies. Steps taken by the health care practitioner will depend on the circumstances of the bite. Your health care practitioner should consult state or local health departments, veterinarians or animal control officers to make an informed assessment of the incident and to request assistance. The important factor is that you seek care promptly after you are bitten by any animal.
Is there a rabies vaccine or treatment?
There is no treatment for rabies after symptoms of the disease appear. However, two decades ago scientists developed an extremely effective new rabies vaccine regimen that provides immunity to rabies when administered after an exposure (post-exposure prophylaxis) or for protection before an exposure occurs (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Although rabies among humans is rare in the United States, every year an estimated 18,000 people receive rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis and an additional 40,000 receive post-exposure prophylaxis.