Press release from Buncombe County Department of Health:
Rabies is a dangerous virus that anyone can get if they handle or get bitten by an animal that has the disease. Protect yourself and your family from rabies: stay away from wild animals and be sure pets are vaccinated every year.
Rabies is caused by a virus and can infect both people and animals. People can get rabies when they are bitten by an animal that is sick with the disease. Symptoms of rabies might not show up for months, but it is important to receive proper care very soon after a bite or other exposure. Rabies “post-exposure vaccines” can prevent the transmission of the rabies disease. Without these vaccines the outcome of a person bitten by an animal with rabies is death, usually within just a few days after symptoms develop.
Avoid Wild Animals
More than 90% of all animal rabies cases reported to CDC each year occur in wild animals. Any mammal can carry rabies but the main animals that get rabies include raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to avoid contact with wild animals. Do not feed or handle them, even if they seem friendly. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to Animal Control.
Keep Your Pets Healthy
Family pets and other domestic animals can get rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals. When rabies from wild animals “spills over” into domestic animals, the risk to people is increased because of our close contact with pets.
In general, pets have a higher risk of coming into contact with wild animals that may have rabies than we do. Cats, dogs and ferrets that have not gotten their rabies shots and are exposed to rabies must be quarantined for six months, or put down/euthanized, because of their risk of getting rabies after the exposure. Because the use of rabies vaccines in exotic pets such as wolf-dog hybrids is not licensed, it is considered off-label usage. When rabies is suspected in an exotic pet species and exposure to a human or domestic animal has occurred, it is recommended to euthanize and test the animal for rabies.
To help reduce the risk of your pet getting rabies:
• Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
• Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision when outdoors.
• Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
• Call Animal Control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated.
• Do not feed or water your pets outside and keep your garbage securely covered. These items may attract wild or stray animals.
Take Action If You Are Bitten
If you or someone in your family is exposed to a rabid animal, rabies can be prevented through a series of shots called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
If you are bitten by any animal, follow these steps.
1. Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water and see a healthcare provider or go to the Emergency Department of your local hospital.
2. Contact Animal Control if you or your pet is bitten, to assist in capturing the animal for observation or rabies testing.
Animal Control phone numbers:
• Asheville City limits – Asheville Police 252-1110
• Buncombe County, Black Mountain – Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office 250-6670
For rabies issues in the municipalities below, call Marc Fowler, Buncombe County Department of Health 250-5036.
• Biltmore Forest
3. For questions regarding rabies exposures contact your local health department. A trained disease control nurse can talk about your exposure with you and help you decide if rabies vaccines are needed.
• Buncombe County Department of Health – Communicable Disease program 250-5109