Get Healthy: To prevent rabies, avoid contact with wild animals

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This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Recently, health officials in our area have identified bats that had been in contact with humans, then tested positive for rabies.

More than 90 percent of all animal rabies cases reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals. While coyotes, skunks, raccoons and foxes can carry the virus, in Nevada, bats are the main source of rabies infection.

“Bats are an important part of our ecosystem. They eat bugs and can be beneficial, but bats don’t hang around humans. That’s not part of their normal behavior,” said Dustin Boothe, epidemiologist with Carson City Health and Human Services.

While most wild animals are found primarily outdoors, bats can sometimes fly into buildings, including homes and office spaces. If you see a bat indoors, confine it to a room and keep people from being exposed to it. If a bat is behaving strangely, leave it alone and call Animal Services or the authorities to have it removed and tested.

Human cases of rabies are almost always fatal. One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to avoid contact with wild animals as well as unfamiliar domestic animals. Do not feed or handle them, even if they seem friendly. If infected, these animals may transmit rabies to humans. If you do come in contact with an animal that may have rabies, it is important that you seek medical attention right away to begin preventative treatment.

Another important step you can take to prevent rabies is to make sure your pets’ rabies vaccines are up to date. This is important, because animals that have not received a rabies shot and are exposed to rabies must be quarantined for six months or put down. Dr. Annette Rink, state veterinarian with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, emphasizes the importance of having all susceptible animals vaccinated, even indoor cats. She cautions that even indoor animals may find themselves outside by accident, and it’s important they are protected with the vaccine.

Anytime you see an animal acting strangely, report it to Animal Control. Signs to look for include:

General sickness

Problems swallowing

Lots of drool or saliva

An animal that appears more tame than you would expect

An animal that bites at everything

An animal that’s having trouble moving or may even be paralyzed

For more information about other Health Department services, check out our website at or visit us at


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