Information on Rabies

Facts About Rabies

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system caused by a virus usually transmitted by a bite, scratch or contact with an infected animal's saliva. When an animal or person is infected by the virus, the disease spreads through the nervous system to the brain. It will paralyze and kill the infected person or animal if not promptly treated. Animals in the wild that most commonly carry the disease are raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. These animals can transmit it to pets, including cats and dogs, and to humans. Other animals, such as birds, snakes, turtles and fish do not carry rabies. Rabies has been recognized in bats in Massachusetts since the 1960s. The risk of rabies in Massachusetts is now greater than in the past because an outbreak carried by raccoons has become established in the Commonwealth. While the disease most strongly affects its host species (raccoons or bats, in Massachusetts), it can spill over into other species. Other wild animal species commonly affected are skunks, foxes, woodchucks, and coyotes. Unvaccinated domestic animals are also at risk of contracting rabies. For example, in 1993 and 1994 there were 31 rabid cats in Massachusetts. This makes it especially important for people to vaccinate their pets and educate their families about avoiding contact with wild and stray animals.

Things You Can Do to Help Control Rabies

The best way to reduce your risk of rabies is to protect your pets and to decrease your contact with wild and stray animals. These goals can be met by following a few simple guidelines: Have your dogs and cats vaccinated. Obey leash laws and report strays to the local dog officer. Don't feed your pets outdoors-it could attract wild animals and strays. Never feed wild animals, especially near your home. Teach your children to stay away from wild or stray animals, even if they seem tame. Avoid sick or strange-acting animals. Never try to keep wild animals as pets-it's against the law! Don't touch dead animals.

Reduce your Home's Appeal

Install a chimney cap to prevent raccoons and other animals from living inside your home. Seal areas around your house that animals may use as a den. This includes under porches, crawl spaces beneath your house, your attic, and openings in sheds and other outbuildings. Make sure animals have left before you seal up the space! Secure your garbage cans so they don't attract raccoons, skunks, and strays looking for food.