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County News & Press Releases

Posted on: May 25, 2023

Health Department Encourages Awareness of Rabies Protection

Bucks County Department of Health logo with BCDH

With spring once again at our doorsteps, so comes the desire to soak up warm air and sun. 

However, increased time outdoors also poses potential risks for interaction with wild animals.

So far in 2023 there have been no reported cases of rabies in Bucks County wildlife. In comparison, during 2022 the Bucks County Health Department reported 6 cases. 

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

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

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

In animals, rabies is categorized in two forms: furious and paralytic. Furious rabies includes aggression, unnatural daytime activity by nocturnal species, as well as frothing and biting. With paralytic rabies, the animal might appear tame at first but will display lack of coordination, weakness in hind limbs, and may potentially drool with an open mouth.  

Animals that hold the highest risk for rabies transmissions include foxes, raccoons, bats, skunks and feral cats. 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, as well as 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, as 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 may be exposed to wildlife that 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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