PARK HILLS – A simple bite, cut or scrape could mean the difference between life and death for both humans and animals when dealing with rabies.
Debbie Hoehn, nurse practitioner with the St. Francois County Health Center, is urging the community to protect themselves and their pets from rabies, especially as the weather begins to warm up.
“Rabies is a viral disease that kills wild animals, pets, and humans,” said Hoehn. “When left untreated, it is almost always fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies kills 55,000 people every year.”
The most common route of transmission is from a bite, but it can also be spread by saliva from the rabid animal entering a cut or scrape on the skin or mucous membranes, such as the eye.
“Fortunately, rabies is preventable,” explained Hoehn. “The first step is to protect your pet, your community, and yourself by getting your pet vaccinated for rabies.
“Next, avoid all wild animals and strays. Report all strays and any wild animals acting strangely to local police or animal control officers. In the U.S., raccoons make up the highest percentage of rabid animals, followed by skunks and bats.
“Third, protect your pet from wild animals by preventing them from roaming free and getting them spayed or neutered to decrease the urge to roam or fight.”
“Lastly, protect your pet by feeding them indoors, rather than outside. Even empty food and water dishes can attract wild animals,” she concluded.
If bitten by an animal, CDC recommends you follow these important steps:
• Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least 5 minutes.
• Call your doctor or go to the ER immediately.
• Report the bite to your local public health department. They will help your physician assess the need for rabies post exposure prophylaxis.
• Prompt treatment before the disease develops can stop rabies infection and prevent the disease.
For more information about rabies, visit the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/rabies or call the Saint Francois County Health Center at 573-431-1947.