Animal Bites and Rabies Prevention
If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal/bat and are concerned about exposure to rabies, please review the Animal Bite/Rabies Resource Guide about exposure risks and who to contact.
What is rabies?
- Rabies is a deadly disease that is caused by the rabies virus: Rabies lyssavirus.
- The virus can be transmitted when infected saliva gets into wounds, scratches or mucous membranes.
- Symptoms vary, but most typically appear between one to three months in humans.
- Once symptoms of rabies appear, it is almost always fatal.
- Post-exposure treatment may be necessary.
How can I prevent animal bites and rabies exposure?
- Avoid stray dogs and cats.
- When your pet is outside, use a leash.
- Teach your children not to approach any unfamiliar, stray, or wild animals.
- Supervise young children around all animals, even pets.
- Vaccinate pet dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock against rabies.
- Stay away from all wild animals, especially those acting abnormally.
- Do not keep exotic or wild animals as pets, regardless of how young or cute they are.
- Exclude bats from living quarters by keeping screens in good repair and by closing any small openings that could allow them to enter.
What animals typically carry the rabies virus?
- All species of mammals are able to become infected with the rabies virus.
- Raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes are common wild animals that may carry rabies.
- Cats, cattle, and dogs are common domestic animals that may carry rabies.
What constitutes a rabies exposure?
- Any penetration of the skin can be considered to be an exposure.
- Most commonly, this is in the form of a bite; however, transmission may occur through scratches because animals lick their paws.
- In addition, exposures of mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) to saliva of bats or any animal that is showing signs of illness may pose a risk of transmitting the rabies virus.
- PLEASE NOTE: Bats warrant special consideration.
- If you are woken in the middle of the night because a bat landed on you, you must consider that an exposure.
- If you were sleeping in a room and woke to see a bat, whether you recall contact or not, you must consider that an exposure.
- If you see a bat flying around an infant, mentally impaired or intoxicated person, you must consider that an exposure.
- Please call the Health Department at 920-929-3085.
- Bat scratches and bites are incredibly small and may go unnoticed.
What do I do if someone is bitten?
- Wash the wound immediately and thoroughly with soap and water.
- Contact your local health care provider as soon as possible.
- Report to one of the Animal Bite Resources (found below) as soon as possible.
What do I do with the offending animal?
- Locate the animal as soon as possible.
- If domestic, obtain owner’s name, address, and phone number.
- If stray or wild, locate and capture if possible; however, use caution!
- It is helpful if the animal can be tested for rabies.
- If the offending animal cannot be located, the human/animal bitten or scratched should be regarded as having been exposed to the rabies virus.
- Quarantine of the offending domestic animal may be necessary per Wisconsin State Statute § 95.21(4).
Animal Bite Resources
- Report animal bites to your local law enforcement agency and health department.
- Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department
- (920) 929-3390
- Fond du Lac County Health Department
- (920) 929-3085
- Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department
How to capture a bat (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
- Find a small container like a box or a large can, and a piece of cardboard large enough to cover the opening in the container. Punch small air holes in the cardboard.
- Put on leather work gloves. When the bat lands, approach it slowly and place the container over it. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
- If you are certain there has been no contact between the bat and any people or pets, carefully hold the cardboard over the container and take the bat outdoors and release it away from people and pets.
- If there is any question about contact between the bat and people or pets, you want to save the bat for testing. Tape the cardboard to the container, securing the bat inside and then contact your health department to have the bat tested for rabies.
- Rabies – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Rabies Virus – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Rabies Prevention – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Signs and Symptoms – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Animal Bites – Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- Rabies – Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- Rabies Fact Sheet (English) – Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- Rabies Fact Sheet (Hmong) – Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- Rabies Fact Sheet (Spanish) – Wisconsin Department of Health Service
Office Hours: 8:00am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday (except legal holidays)
After Hours: call 920-929-3085 follow the prompts to be connected to the nurse on-call.
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