As we end the school year, begin summer vacations and spend more time outdoors, the Champaign Health District staff members would like to remind you to be extra cautious around stray animals and wild animals. It’s not normal for wild animals to approach people or for nocturnal animals (bats especially) to be out during the day. Often if you see a wild animal during the day it’s sick, so don’t approach or try to help the animal.
Although Champaign County hasn’t had any animals test positive for the rabies virus this year, several of the counties around the state have. Rabies is a serious disease that kills more than 50,000 people and animals every year around the world. Any mammal can get rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, along with dogs, cats and bats.
Rabies is transmitted to people by the saliva of an infected animal; you can’t get rabies from the blood of an animal. Animals with rabies may act differently from healthy animals. Wild animals may move slowly or may act as if they are tame. A pet that is usually friendly may snap at you or may try to bite.
Some signs of rabies in animals are: changes in an animal’s behavior, general sickness, problems swallowing, increased drooling or aggression.
Some precautions to take to protect yourselves from the ever-present threat of rabies exposure:
• Don’t feed, touch or adopt wild animals and be cautious around stray cats and dogs.
• Teach children to leave wildlife alone and be sure that your child knows to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.
• Have your pet cats, dogs and ferrets vaccinated for rabies and keep their vaccinations current.
• Keep trash can lids secure. Open containers can attract wildlife.
• Report any bite incidents to your local health department and call your doctor for medical advice.
The Champaign Health District investigated 70 animal bite/human exposure cases in 2011, 80 in 2012 and 29 so far this year.
Most of those bites were from dogs, with 51 cases in 2011, 59 in 2012 and 23 so far this year.
For more information please visit the health district’s website www.champaignhd.com or go to www.cdc.gov/rabies.
Brad King is the Champaign County health commissioner.