A bite investigation is conducted by an Animal Control Officer each time our office is notified of an animal biting a human. By Community Ordinance[CP1] , the animal must be quarantined for a specific amount of time; . tThis is done in order to safeguard the Community from people possibly getting infected with the rabies virus. There is a ten (10) day quarantine for domestic dogs and cats and fourteen (14) days for all other types of animals. Depending on the situation and whether the dog or cat has a current rabies vaccination and license tag will decide how the animal is to be quarantined. It will be the investigating Animal Control Officer who will evaluate the situation and make the final determination of what needs to be done.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hyper salivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. You can only get rabies by coming in contact with these specific bodily excretions and tissues.
It’s important to remember that rabies is a medical urgency but not an emergency. Decisions should not be delayed.
Wash any wounds immediately. One of the most effective ways to decrease the chance for infection is to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
See your doctor for attention for any trauma due to an animal attack before considering the need for rabies vaccination.
Your doctor, possibly in consultation with your state or local health department, will decide if you need a rabies vaccination. Decisions to start vaccination, known as postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), will be based on your type of exposure and the animal you were exposed to, as well as laboratory and surveillance information for the geographic area where the exposure occurred.
In the United States, postexposure prophylaxis consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. Rabies immune globulin and the first dose of rabies vaccine should be given by your health care provider as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses or rabies vaccine should be given on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination. Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine.
Regardless of the risk of rabies, bite wounds can cause serious injury such as nerve or tendon laceration and local and system infection. Your doctor will determine the best way to care for your wound, and will also consider how to treat the wound for the best possible cosmetic results.
For many types of bite wounds, immediate gentle irrigation with water or a dilute water povidone-iodine solution has been shown to markedly decrease the risk of bacterial infection.
Wound cleansing is especially important in rabies prevention since, in animal studies, thorough wound cleansing alone without other postexposure prophylaxis has been shown to markedly reduce the likelihood of rabies.
You should receive a tetanus shot if you have not been immunized in ten years. Decisions regarding the use of antibiotics, and primary wound closure should be decided together with your doctor.
What is the risk for my pet?
Any animal bitten or scratched by either a wild, carnivorous mammal or a bat that is not available for testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.
Unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should be placed in strict isolation for 6 months and vaccinated 1 month before being released.
Animals with expired vaccinations need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Dogs and cats that are currently vaccinated are kept under observation for 45 days.
Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of rabies unless the animal was sick or behaving in any unusual manner and rabies is widespread in your area.
Is there rabies in my area?
In the past twelve (12) years within the boundaries of the Community, we have encountered only two animals (bats) which were found to have rabies. In Arizona it is not uncommon for bats to be found with the rabies virus. It is important to be aware of bats acting abnormal, such as flying in the daylight or found lying on the ground during the daylight hours. We have not had any other animal tested positive for rabies, but you should always be aware of any animal not acting “normal”; such as a coyote, skunk, or fox not afraid of and approaching people, dogs or cats’ normally friendly acting aggressive.
How is rabies transmitted?
All species of mammals are susceptible to rabies virus infection, but only a few species are important as reservoirs for the disease. In the United States, distinct strains of rabies virus have been identified in raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Several species of insectivorous bats are also reservoirs for strains of the rabies virus.
Transmission of rabies virus usually begins when infected saliva of a host is passed to an uninfected animal. The most common mode of rabies virus transmission is through the bite and virus-containing saliva of an infected host. Though transmission has been rarely documented via other routes such as contamination of mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth), aerosol transmission, and corneal and organ transplantations.
How is rabies diagnosed?
In animals, rabies is diagnosed using the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test, which looks for the presence of rabies virus antigens in brain tissue. In humans, several tests are required.
Rapid and accurate laboratory diagnosis of rabies in humans and other animals is essential for timely administration of postexposure prophylaxis. Within a few hours, a diagnostic laboratory can determine whether or not an animal is rabid and inform the responsible medical personnel. The laboratory results may save a patient from unnecessary physical and psychological trauma, and financial burdens, if the animal is not rabid.
In addition, laboratory identification of positive rabies cases may aid in defining current epidemiologic patterns of disease and provide appropriate information for the development of rabies control programs.
The nature of rabies disease dictates that laboratory tests be standardized, rapid, sensitive, specific, economical, and reliable.
If you or someone you know has been bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately, if serious call or take the person to a medical provider for treatment and then call Gila River Animal Control at 520-562-5177 to report the incident; after hours and holidays call the Gila River Police Department at 520-562-3361.