Wildlife and Rabies
Rabies is a virus that is carried by some species of animals and is spread by:
- a bite from an infected animal
- by having contact with an infected animal’s saliva onto a cut or other open wound
- by having contact with an infected animal’s saliva through the mucous membranes (ex. mouth, eyes or nose)
All mammals are susceptible to the rabies virus, but risk is usually higher in carnivores.
Common Infected Animals
In North Carolina, the most common vector species for rabies are raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. Animals with head trauma or other bacterial or viral diseases may present with similar symptoms.
Rarely Infected Animals
Opossums are seldom diagnosed with rabies due to lower body temperature that does not allow the virus to survive. Other mammals such as squirrels and rabbits are seldom found to have rabies.
Signs of Rabies
A rabid animal will generally have erratic and crazed behavior, including:
- symptoms of aggression
- drooling or foaming
- out and in view at times and in areas not normal
- approaching both other animals (such as dogs and cats) and/or humans
- tameness or lack of fear
- approaches but without apparent aggression
- has paralysis that begins in the hind quarters and progresses forward
These animals will bite without provocation or warning and in some cases will chase after a person or animal.
Rabies Precautions for People
If bitten by or exposed to a rabid animal, a series of shots from your doctor will prevent you from getting rabies; HOWEVER, one should contact health officials immediately if there is a possibility of exposure.
Get the first post-exposure vaccination RIGHT AWAY. Once the virus is activated within the body, which can happen from only a few hours to a few days depending on exposure location, the vaccination does not work.
Protect your pets. Keep your pets vaccinated and indoors or leashed. If a vaccinated pet is bitten by an animal you suspect has rabies, get them a booster shot immediately, regardless of when it last received a rabies booster.