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COUNTY OF MONTEREY

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Animal Bites & Rabies

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Close up photo of a raccoon

 Animal Bites & Rabies

Animal bites are a common problem in the United States, with 2 to 5 million bites occurring each year.  Children are bitten more often than adults.  The vast majority of animal bites are caused by dogs (85% - 90%), with the remainder caused by cats (5% - 10%) and rodents (2% - 3%).  The most feared complication of an animal bite is rabies, although skin infection is the most common complication.  Some bite wounds can be serious, causing injury and permanent disability.  Bite wounds to the hand carry an especially high risk for serious complications because the skin's surface is so close to the underlying bones and joints.

Medical providers are required under California law to report animal bites to the Health Department.  

 Report Form

Click the link below for a copy of the Animal Bite Report Form.

 Rabies and your dog

If you suspect that your dog has rabies, please report it right away. In some cases, your dog can be kept quarantined in your own home and will not need to be brought in. Please contact us right away for the best possible outcome.

 Rabies in our community

fox, skunk, bat

Residents of Monterey County are reminded about the ongoing public health threat presented by rabid wildlife in our community.  

Rabies can be transmitted through the saliva of an animal or human into a break in the skin or through a   mucous membrane. However, it is important to realize that a bite need not occur for the rabies virus to be transmitted.Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. It infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Once symptoms develop, rabies is fatal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoon's, skunks, bats, and foxes.

Unfortunately, rabies among certain species of wildlife (particularly, skunks, bats, and other wild carnivores, such as foxes) is endemic (always here) to California. These species have become host carriers and often don’t show initial signs.  

IT IS HIGHLY UNUSUAL FOR SKUNKS, BATS, RACCOONS OR OPOSSUMS TO BE SEEN DURING CLEAR, SUNNY, DAYLIGHT HOURS.

This behavior should be viewed as suspicious and may indicate the presence of a rabies infection. Do not touch or approach the animal. If any of these wild animals are seen acting abnormal or appearing ill, call Animal Services at (831) 769-8850.

Rabies & Domestic Animals

Domestic animals, including our own companion dogs and cats are at risk for rabies in Monterey County, which is why the County Ordinance requires all dogs and cats over 4 months of age be vaccinated against rabies and dogs be licensed. Having a currently licensed dog ensures that it has been properly vaccinated. Domestic animals are at increased risk of rabies if they are not protected by a rabies vaccination, and if they are allowed contact with wildlife.

In addition to ensuring that their pets have been properly vaccinated and licensed, residents are advised to discourage wildlife from roaming nearby not leaving pet food outside at night and properly securing trash containers. Feeding of wildlife, with the exception of bird feeders, is not permitted at any time.

FAQs about Rabies

A: People usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

A: Non-bite exposures to rabies are very rare. Scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material (such as brain tissue) from a rabid animal constitute non-bite exposures. Occasionally reports of non-bite exposure are such that post exposure prophylaxis is given. Contact with the blood, urine or feces (e.g., guano) of a rabid animal, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for prophylaxis.

A: Contact your physician IMMEDIATELY  as medical assistance should be obtained as soon as possible after an exposure. There have been no vaccine failures in the United States (i.e., someone developed rabies) when post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) was given promptly and appropriately after an exposure. But again, once symptoms appear, rabies is fatal. Do not delay in treatment.

A. According to the CDC, one of the most effective methods to decrease the chances for infection involves thorough washing of the wound with soap and water. Specific medical attention for someone exposed to rabies is called post exposure prophylaxis or PEP. In the United States, post exposure prophylaxis consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. Rabies immune globulin and the first dose of rabies vaccine should be given by your health care provider as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses or rabies vaccine should be given on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination. Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine (not in the stomach anymore).

A. Contact your veterinarian and/or Monterey County Animal Services immediately! Any animal bitten or scratched by either a wild, carnivorous mammal or a bat should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.

CALIFORNIA STATE LAW REQUIRES THAT ANY DOMESTIC ANIMAL EXPOSED TO RABIES BE PLACED INTO QUARANTINE BASED ON WHETHER IT HAS A CURRENT RABIES VACCINATION AND/OR THE WILD ANIMAL IS AVAILABLE FOR TESTING. ANIMAL SERVICES IS THE AGENCY THAT WOULD DETERMINE THE BEST PROTOCOL FOR EACH CASE.

For more information about rabies visit the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Infectious Diseases

Avoid contact with wildlife AT ALL TIMES and if you think you or your pets have been exposed to rabies, contact the Monterey County Health Department’s Animal Services Division IMMEDIATELY at 831-769-8850.