Animal Bites and Rabies

Animal Bites

LCHD Animal Bite Data Reports

Animal Bite Trends Report

LCHD 2014-2015 Comparison Animal Bite Trends Report


Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal and affecting the central nervous system of mammals, including humans.

How rabies is spread

Rabies is spread to humans through the bite of an infected animal. It is possible, but rare, for humans to be exposed to rabies through infected material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, without being bitten.

If the saliva gets into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or wound, infection can occur.

How to spot rabies symptoms in pets

Animals may exhibit any of the following if they are infected with rabies:

  • Change in behavior
  • General sickness
  • Problems swallowing
  • Increased drooling
  • Aggression

How to prevent rabies in humans

Be safe when interacting with wildlife:

  • Do not handle, feed or intentionally attract wild animals with open garbage can or litter
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home
  • Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people or pets.
  • When traveling abroad, avoid direct contact with wild animals and be especially careful around dogs in developing countries.

How to prevent rabies in pets

Be a responsible pet owner:

  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets
  • Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood
  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

What to do if you think you have been exposed to rabies

If you have been bitten, scratched or exposed to an animal’s saliva:

Wash the wound right away with soap and water for 10 minutes.

Call your doctor or go to a hospital emergency room depending on the severity of the wound.

Get a description of the animal that bit or scratched you or, if possible, confine the animal so it can be quarantined or tested.

Contact the local animal control officer if it is a stray or wild animal for assistance.

Contact your local health department as soon as possible so steps can be taken to quarantine the animal or submit it for testing if warranted.

Rabies treatments

For people who have already been exposed to an animal that tested positive for rabies or is unavailable for testing a vaccination is available and is nearly 100 percent successful in preventing rabies in humans.

Pre-exposure vaccination is available for people who are at high risk for a rabies exposure such as veterinarians, laboratory personnel and animal control personnel.

Most rabies fatalities have occurred when people fail to seek prompt medical assistance or are unaware of the exposure. When left untreated, rabies can cause encephalopathy and death. Death can occur within days of the onset of symptoms.

More information

If you feel that you may have contracted rabies or have come in contact with an animal that may be infected with rabies, contact your doctor and your local health department. If you live in Laurel County, please contact the Laurel County Health Department’s Environmental office at (606)878-0499.