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Piedmont Health district promotes Rabies Awareness Week

September 23-29 is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is partnering with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) to raise awareness of rabies and rabies prevention.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and
is sometimes found in wild animals, such as raccoons, foxes and skunks; however any mammal can get rabies including humans.

Rabies is almost 100 percent fatal unless post-exposure rabies shots are received. Each year, tens of thousands of people are successfully protected from developing rabies through vaccination after being bitten by an animal that may have rabies.

The rabies virus is found in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or scratch, or by getting saliva or brain tissue into a wound or into the eyes, nose or mouth.

In Virginia, the highest risk animals for carrying rabies are wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, groundhogs, bobcats, coyotes, beavers and opossums. Rabies is less often reported in domestic animals but they can get rabies and cases occur every year in cats, dogs, cows, goats and horses.

Bats are of particular concern because a per- son can be bitten and not know it; bats have small teeth that may leave marks not easily seen. Although most people will know if they have been bitten by a bat, there are circumstances when a person might not be aware or able to tell if a bite has occurred. For example, If a person awakens to find a bat in the room, if you find a bat in a room with an unattended child or if you see a bat near a person with a disability.

If you or your pet are exposed to a bat or bitten or scratched by a domestic or wild animal, report it to the Health Department and Animal Control immediately and seek medical attention.

Have your veterinarian vaccinate your pets and selected livestock and keep them up to date. Limit the possibility of exposure by keeping your animals on your property and do not let pets roam free. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. Do not leave garbage or pet food outside as it may attract wild or stray animals.

For more information contact your local Health Department or visit the Virginia Department of Health website: www.vdh.virginia.gov/environ- mental-epidemiology/ rabies-control/.