Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals. All mammals can get rabies including pets, livestock, and humans. The most commonly-affected animals are raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats and the domestic cat.
The rabies virus travels slowly via the nervous system until it reaches the brain. In most species, the time from infection to disease is two to twelve weeks, but some animals have been known to carry the virus for up to a year. Once the virus reaches the brain and clinical signs appear, death follows in two weeks or less. This is also when the virus reaches the saliva and can infect others through an exposure. In most animals (bats are an exception) the virus is only transmissible during this last stage of the disease. Once this last stage is reached, rabies is ALWAYS fatal.
Rabies is most often contracted through a bite or scratch, but it can also be transmitted when the saliva or brain tissue of an infected animal comes in contact with an open cut or mucous membranes such as the eyes.
Clinical signs in wild animals can vary greatly and should not be used to judge whether or not an animal is rabid. Some common signs are changes in normal behavior, unnatural friendliness or aggression, foaming at the mouth, blindness, and paralysis. Some animals have merely died with no visible signs.
Extra precautions MUST be taken with animals that are known to carry rabies in your area. If you think you have had a possible exposure, seek medical advice from your doctor immediately or call your state’s Department of Health. They will instruct you on the steps necessary to protect your health and to possibly have the animal tested for rabies.
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When rescuing injured wildlife, the choices you make will impact that animal’s life and possibly your own. Knowing about the risks to the animal as well as to you, your family and your pets, along with the right advice from the beginning can mean the difference between a heartwarming, educational experience and disaster.
This informative guide teaches would-be rescuers how to identify an animal in need, capture that animal, and safely transport it to a wildlife rehabilitator.
• How to determine the status of an injured creature using easy-to-follow flow charts
• Instructions on safe-capture methods, emergency care, transportation, and finding a professional wildlife rehabilitator