Animal Bites/Rabies

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.
    • Some human symptoms include:
      • irritability or aggressiveness
      • excessive movements or agitation
      • confusion, bizarre or strange thoughts, or hallucinations
      • muscle spasms and unusual postures
      • seizures (convulsions)
      • weakness or paralysis
      • extreme sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, or touch
  • Once symptoms of rabies appear, it is almost always fatal.
  • Post-exposure treatment may be necessary.

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.

How can I prevent animal bites and rabies exposure?

  • Avoid stray dogs and cats.
  • Use a leash when your pet is outside.
  • 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.
  • Keep bats out of living quarters by keeping screens in good condition and by closing any small openings that could allow them to enter.

What constitutes a rabies exposure?

  • Any penetration of the skin can be considered to be an exposure.
  • Most commonly, exposure 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.

What if I am exposed to rabies from a bat?

  • Bats require 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.
    • Bat scratches and bites are incredibly small and may go unnoticed.
    • Please call the Health Department at 920-929-3085.

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 the animal bite to one of the Animal Bite Resources (below) as soon as possible.

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

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)

How to capture a bat (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Learn more:

Fond du Lac County Health Department is located at the City/County Government Center on the 3rd floor

Office Hours: 8:00am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday (except legal holidays)
Phone: 920-929-3085 
After Hours: call 920-929-3085 follow the prompts to be connected to the nurse on-call.
Fax: 920-929-3102
Email: Click here

Rabies Photo 2