LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) wants to educate people about animal bites and rabies on World Rabies Day.
World Rabies Day is recognized every September 28, and ADH is reminding Arkansans to know the signs of rabies in animals and what to do if they are bitten.
ADH officials say rabies is a deadly virus that affects the brain and nerves in mammals, including humans.
According to a news release sent Monday, ADH has reported 25 cases of rabies in animals so far this year. ADH officials say these cases have been confirmed in 10 skunks and 11 bats. Two dogs and two cats had rabies as well this year, according to officials.
Rabies can be contracted through a bit or potential exposure with saliva from an infected animal.
Department of Health officials say the animals that most often carry rabies in Arkansas are skunks and bats, but any mammal can become infected by one of these species.
Officials say animals do not have to be aggressive or behaving erratically to have rabies. Changes in any animal’s normal behavior can be early signs of rabies.
ADH officials say to report abnormal animal behavior to animal control or law enforcement. Officials say if it can be done without putting someone at risk of contact with the animal, capture or confine it until animal control or public health authorities are contacted to provide further guidance. If the animal can’t be captured or confined, it’s helpful to identify it before it runs away. Officials say do not try to pick the animal up.
Officials say depending on the species, an animal can be observed for a specified period of time or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment.
Officials say a potential rabies exposure should never be taken lightly. If untreated, rabies is always fatal.
Arkansas state law requires that all dogs and cats over four months old be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
Officials say rabies vaccine sold over the counter may not be properly handled or administered and may be ineffective at producing an immune response after vaccination.
According to officials, the human rabies vaccine and immune globulin (passive antibodies), administered after possible exposure before symptoms develop, is highly effective at preventing the progression to rabies disease.
Officials say once an infected person develops symptoms of rabies there is no effective treatment and the infected person will most likely die.
The health department does not administer rabies post-exposure treatments.
Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the nearest ADH Local Health Unit. For a listing of units, visit healthy.arkansas.gov. For questions about rabies or animal bites, email the ADH Zoonotic Disease Section at email@example.com or call 501-280-4136.
For more on rabies and animal bites, click here.