All animal bites to humans should be treated as potential rabies exposure.
The rabies virus is a life-threatening disease which must be treated in the patient soon after the exposure. Ohio law requires anyone who has been bitten by an animal, or has the knowledge of a person who has been bitten by an animal, to report the bite to the local health department within 24-hours.
The Meigs County Health Department receives an average of 50 to 60 reports per year. Almost all incidents resulted in the issuance of the mandatory 10-day quarantine period of the animal for observation and no rabies vaccinations for the person exposed.
Several kinds of animals have the potential to expose humans to the deadly virus through their saliva or mucus. These animals may include dogs, cats, raccoons, bats, skunks, livestock or other wild animals. Birds and reptiles do not transmit rabies. Small rodents, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits very rarely transmit rabies and are not generally reported.
In Ohio, the rabies virus is seen primarily in raccoons, skunks and bats. A bite from a rabid raccoon or skunk is more likely to occur to your pets and livestock. Any human exposure to bats should be regarded as a potential exposure to rabies. Any bat found inside your home should be collected and sent for rabies testing.
When making a bite report, be prepared to provide the local health department with a description of the biting animal, owner of the animal, person exposed, location of where the bite happened, rabies vaccination status of the animal (if known) and how the bite occurred. A sanitarian from the health department will immediately begin the rabies risk assessment by contacting the person bitten and the owner of the animal or work with a wildlife officer or the animal control officer to capture the animal.
The recommended 10-day confinement period is based on if a dog, cat or other animal had the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of a bite. If so, it will begin to show signs of rabies within four or five days. Although a current rabies-vaccinated dog or cat is less likely to contract rabies than an unvaccinated one, vaccine failures have been known to occur and vaccinated pets have developed rabies.
For this reason, it is important that all dogs, cats or ferrets that bite humans be confined and observed for 10 days regardless of vaccination status. If the biting animal dies for any reason during the 10-day confinement and observation period, it must be tested for rabies. Wild animals are generally euthanized and sent for testing.
If your dog or cat is not vaccinated for rabies or requires a booster, the Meigs County Health Department has partnered with Josh Ervin, DVM of the Ohio Valley Animal Clinic, to conduct a rabies vaccination clinic between 9 a.m. and noon June 11, at the Meigs County Health Department, 112 East Memorial Drive, Pomeroy. The cost is $5 per rabies vaccine.
Steve Swatzel is a registered sanitarian for the Meigs County Health Department.