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Posted on: May 5, 2022

Bucks Health Department Encourages Awareness of Rabies Protection

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Spring is in full swing, and the outdoors once again feels warm and inviting.

And with extra time outside, chances to interact with wildlife increase. With this interaction, however, comes heightened risk of exposure to rabies.

So far in 2022, there have been no reported cases of the disease in Bucks County wildlife, but during 2021 the Bucks County Health Department reported 11 cases.

The deadly viral disease affects mammals and is most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is endemic and has always been reported in Pennsylvania.

It is important to stay vigilant, know the signs and take precautions when around animals - both wild and domestic - this spring and summer.

Rabies invades the central nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms in humans such as fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Human deaths in the United States are rare if treatment is received quickly following a bite or scratch by a rabid animal. 

In animals, rabies is categorized in two forms: furious rabies, which includes aggression, daytime activity by nocturnal species, frothing and biting; and paralytic rabies, in which an animal displays lack of coordination and weakness in the hind limbs, and also could have an open mouth and be drooling. The animal might even appear tame. 

Foxes, raccoons, bats, skunks, and feral cats are often the animals that hold the highest risk for rabies transmission. The Health Department cautions all residents to refrain from contact with these high-risk animals regardless of an animal’s behavior or appearance.

In the event one is bitten or exposed to either the animal's saliva or secretions, the individual should seek immediate medical attention and notify the Bucks County Health Department at 215-345-3318.

The Health Department also offers the following important rabies recommendations:

  • Ensure that all household dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies; state law requires household dogs and cats over three months of age be properly vaccinated
  • Keep a watchful eye on pets while in an outdoor setting
  • Do not make any wild animal a household pet
  • Be especially careful of feral cats, as they have an unknown vaccination history and are exposed to wildlife that may have rabies
  • If an animal appears sick, wounded, or behaves in a strange manner, the animal should be considered suspect for rabies and should not be handled
  • If exposed to the secretions or saliva of a potentially rabid animal, immediately cleanse the area with soap and water and seek medical assistance as soon as possible

For additional information pertaining to rabies awareness and other public health threats, please contact the Bucks County Health Department at 215-345-3318, or visit the department's rabies information page at buckscounty.org.

Media Contact: James O’Malley, 215-348-6414, [email protected]

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