Rabies: Protect Your Family and Pets
- Last Updated: 6.13.16
- Information on the Countywide Raccoon Oral Rabies Vaccination Project - For details, click here.
- Rabies Prevention Presentation (Spring 2014)
- Information about Bats in Houses
What is rabies?
Rabies is a deadly viral infection that attacks the central nervous system of mammals. Rabies is a significant public health threat, since rabid animals can come into contact with people and their pets. People, pets, livestock and wildlife can contract the disease. While pets and livestock can be vaccinated against rabies, people exposed to rabies must undergo a costly series of postexposure shots to protect them from the disease. In Anne Arundel County in 2015, there were 35 confirmed cases of animal rabies reported -- 24 bats, 9 raccoons, one fox and one cat. As of June 6, 2016, there have been five confirmed cases of animal rabies reported -- two raccoons, two bats and one cat -- for 2016.
How is rabies spread?
The rabies virus lives in the saliva of a rabid animal and is most commonly spread through a bite from an infected animal. The virus can also be spread from scratches and from infected saliva entering a wound or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth).
What types of animals are at greatest risk?
In Anne Arundel County, rabies is most often seen in raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks. Unvaccinated domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and farm animals, are also at risk.
What are some signs of a rabid animal?
The most consistent sign of rabies is a change in normal behavior. Some animals become excitable, irritable and aggressive, while others appear shy, timid, calm and docile. Animals that are normally active at night may become active and visible during the day. Infected animals may also have difficulty walking or may seem disoriented. Other signs include weakness, paralysis, inability to eat or drink, drooling, foaming at the mouth, and convulsions.
How can I protect my family and pets against rabies?
Be sure your dog, cat or ferret is vaccinated against rabies, and keep your pet’s vaccination up-to-date. Maryland law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets 4 months of age and older be vaccinated against rabies. House cats need to be vaccinated, even if they do not go outside. See Animal Control for information about vaccinations, licensing and other laws regarding pets.
Discourage wild animals from coming into your yard and house by following these recommendations:
- Keep all trash in tightly secured trash cans with lids.
- Do not touch or feed wild or stray animals. Wild animals, even cute young ones, that look as if they need affection, help or rehabilitation might in fact have rabies.
- Teach your children not to play with stray, strange or wild animals. Rabies Web Page for Kids (CDC).
- Keep all doors, windows and other openings tight fitting and secure against animal entry.
- Maryland law prohibits residents from possessing certain wild animals, including raccoons and foxes, because these and other animals can pose a significant risk to humans. Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators should handle wildlife. More Information About Young Wildlife and Reporting Injured, Sick or Nuisance Wildlife to the Department of Natural Resources
Where can I go to get my pet vaccinated?
Rabies immunizations are available through your local veterinarian or through Anne Arundel County Animal Control, 411 Maxwell Frye Road, Millersville, MD 21108, at weekly clinics for dogs, cats and ferrets held Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. For more information on Animal Control clinics, call 410-222-8900 or visit www.aacounty.org/services-and-programs/rabies-clinic.
What should I do if a wild or stray animal bites my pet?
If your pet is bitten or scratched, or if saliva comes in contact with an open wound or mucous membrane from a wild or stray animal, you should seek veterinary attention for your pet. Wear gloves and long sleeves if it is possible that saliva from another animal is on your pet. All bites should be reported to the Anne Arundel County Police Department at 410-222-8610, the Annapolis City Police Department at 410-268-9000 or to Animal Control at 410-222-8900.
What should I do if my family has been exposed to the rabies virus?
If you are bitten or scratched, or if saliva comes in contact with an open wound or mucous membrane from a wild or stray animal, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician or go to the nearest emergency room. Your physician can consult with the Department of Health at 410-222-7256 to determine if there is a need for rabies postexposure treatment. All bites should also be reported to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the Annapolis City Police Department or to Animal Control. The agencies’ phone numbers are in the paragraph above.
When a possible bat exposure has occurred, the bat should be collected, if it is safe to do so, and tested for rabies. If the bat is on the ground or countertop, you can flip an empty trashcan or bucket over it. If the bat is in a room that can be closed off, close all the doors and windows. Immediately call Animal Control at 410-222-8900.
If bats are living in your home or attic, you should consult a professional wildlife control cooperator for assistance in removing them. A list of these individuals can be obtained through the Nuisance Wildlife - Wildlife and Heritage Service - Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website. It is important to note that you are not allowed to exterminate bats. Bats are protected in the State of Maryland, since they are an important and beneficial part of the ecosystem.
See Bats in Houses (DNR)
Does the Department of Health offer pre-exposure rabies vaccine clinics to veterinarians and people in high-risk occupations?
The Department of Health offers pre-exposure rabies immunizations to people in high risk animal-related jobs, including but not limited to veterinarians and their assistants, animal handlers, certain laboratory workers, hunters and trappers. A fee is charged to cover the cost of the vaccine. Call 410-222-7256 to make an appointment.
Where can I get additional information about rabies protection?
For more information, call the Bureau of Environmental Health at 410-222-0056 x3025.
More Web Resources:
- CDC Rabies Questions and Answers (CDC)
- Rabies, Bats and Camps (CDC)
- Get Mad About Rabies Brochure (Maryland DHMH)