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Tell the person bitten to see a doctor immediately. Report the bite to Animal Control at 757-890-3621 and the local health department. In Williamsburg, 757-253-4813 and all other areas on the Virginia lower Peninsula, 757-594-7340.
If your pet is a dog or cat, they will have you confine the animal and watch it closely for 10 days. Report any illness or unusual behavior to your local health department and veterinarian immediately. Don’t let the animal stray, and don’t give the animal away. It must be available for observation by public health authorities.
Don’t kill your pet or allow it to be killed unless you have been instructed to do so by the public health authorities or a veterinarian. Check with your veterinarian to find out if your pet has a current vaccination. After the recommended observation period, have your pet vaccinated for rabies if it does not have a current rabies vaccination.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any mammal or human that gets sick from it. The rabies virus lives in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound or in the mouth.
Only mammals get rabies: bird, fish, reptiles, and amphibians do not. Skunks, bats, foxes, raccoons, dogs, cats and some farm animals are most likely to get rabies. Rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice, and pets like gerbils and hamsters seldom get it.
Rabies can be prevented in cats, dogs, and some livestock with a rabies vaccination. For most wild and exotic animals, there are no rabies vaccines available that have been shown to protect them. A vaccine is available for ferrets, but because not enough is know about how rabies affects them, even vaccinated ferrets may still have to be killed and tested if they bite someone or get exposed to a rabid animal.
Because of improved rabies vaccination programs for pets and better treatment for people who are bitten, rabies cases among humans in this country are rare. The best way to prevent the spread of rabies to humans is by keeping pets properly vaccinated.
Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, and selected livestock. Keep the vaccinations up to date. If your pet is attacked or bitten by another animal, report it to the local health and animal control authorities. Be sure your vaccinated dog or cat receives a booster vaccination. If the animal that bit your pet shows signs of rabies or tests positive for rabies and your pet does not have a current rabies vaccination, then your pet must be placed in quarantine for 6 months or euthanized at your expense.
Limit the possibility of exposure by keeping your animals on your property. Don’t let pets roam free. Also, don’t leave garbage or pet food outside. It may attract wild or stray animals. Remember, wild animals should not be kept as pets. They are a potential rabies threat to their owners and to others. Enjoy all wild animals from a distance, even if they seem friendly. A rabid animal sometimes acts tame. If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to York County Animal Control by phone at 757-890-3601. Do not go near it yourself.
Source: Virginia Department of Health, Office of Epidemiology and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.