Rabies reports are up, so act quickly if bitten

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Photo courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Rabies is a deadly virus spread by infected animals, usually from a bite. The serious and scary fact is that by the time a human shows signs of rabies, the disease has progressed and will nearly always be fatal.

Fortunately, immune globulin shots can treat rabies, although the medicine is very expensive and may not be covered by your insurance.

The better news is that putting the animal in quarantine may eliminate the need for the bite victim to receive expensive and uncomfortable shots.

If you are bitten by a domestic animal, such as a dog, cat, ferret or horse, immediately wash the wound, and contact your doctor. Your doctor will contact the proper authorities. The shots can be deferred for several days, so stay calm.

If possible, the animal will be quarantined for 10 days. You only need the shots if the domestic animal dies within 10 days. The local public health department has the authority to quarantine such animals and provide the results to the bite victim. Shots are not needed if the domestic animal is alive after 10 days.

Quarantining may be more difficult or impossible for a wild animal that ran or flew off. For wild animals, the animal brain can be tested. The bite victim only needs shots if the results show the animal was rabid.

Do not remove the brain from a destroyed animal that bit someone. Allow the health department to remove the brain. Rabies can be transmitted through contact with the infected animal’s brain or spinal cord tissue.

Also be aware that people who were sleeping in a room where a bat was found may have been exposed to rabies through a bite they received while sleeping.

Quarantining and animal testing are less expensive and less uncomfortable for the human victim.

For more information on rabies, go to the Iowa Department of Public Health website or call Environmental Health experts at Dallas County Health at 515-93-3750.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.
Toby Welch is an environmental specialist in the Dallas County Environmental Health Department.

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