Maine CDC Press Release

September 26, 2012

Maine CDC Marks World Rabies Day with Key Rabies Prevention Messages for Mainers

AUGUSTA – Friday, September 28th is World Rabies Day, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reminds Mainers about ways to protect themselves and their pets from rabies infection.

Last month, Maine CDC was notified of a domestic dog that tested positive for rabies. Dr. Stephen Sears, State Epidemiologist from Maine CDC, says: “This was the first case of rabies in a domestic dog in Maine since 2003. This case reminds us of the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on rabies vaccine and avoiding contact with wild animals to prevent the spread of rabies.” The dog was infected with a variant of the rabies virus that circulates most commonly in raccoons and is predominant in the eastern United States. Cats are more likely than dogs to be infected with rabies because of lower vaccination rates among cats; fewer confinement or leash laws; and nocturnal activity patterns that place them at increased risk of being exposed to rabid wildlife. Maine CDC receives reports of about two rabid cats each year.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals. The virus is spread when infected animals bite or scratch a person or another animal. The virus can also be spread if saliva or tissue from the brain or spinal cord of a rabid animal touches broken skin or gets into the mouth, nose or eyes of a person or another animal.

All mammals are susceptible to rabies infection, but only a few wildlife species are important reservoirs for the disease, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. While wildlife are more likely to be rabid than are domestic animals in the United States, domestic animals can be infected when they are bitten by wild animals.

Pet owners can take some important steps to protect their pets from rabies.

• Keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, and ferrets
• Keep your pet on your property and under direct supervision when outdoors
• Call animal control to remove stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill
• If your pet is bitten or scratched by another animal, call your veterinarian to find out if it needs medical attention
• Report all animal bites to the town in which the bite occurred

Rabies in humans is preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. If you or someone you know is bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water right away, and contact your healthcare provider to find out if you need to be treated for a rabies exposure. Usually, medical care can be delayed if rabies can be ruled out in the biting animal either through a confinement period for domestic animals or rabies testing for wild animals.

For more information, contact your local animal control officer or the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.