Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
With residents spending more time outdoors we need to mindful of the potential risks associated with outdoor experiences. It’s spring and Montana’s bat populations are coming out of hibernation or migrating back so we need to be watchful for their presence in our homes, cabins, and outside. Most of us are familiar with the idea that wild animals like bats and raccoons carry rabies, but did you know that, unless properly protected, our pets can be carriers too? Unless pets are vaccinated for rabies, they risk becoming infected and, in turn, infecting humans and other animals with the disease.
Besides vaccinating our pets, there are other steps we can take to keep ourselves and our pets safe and healthy.
- Maintain control of your pets to reduce exposure to wildlife.
- Spay or neuter to decrease the number of stray animals.
- Report any stray or ill animals to animal control.
- Never feed or handle wild animals, especially bats.
- Bat-proof your house – close outside openings larger than 3/8” in walls, roofs, and floors with caulking, steel wool, or expandable foam, and put screens on all doors, windows, and chimneys.
- Watch for abnormal wild animal behavior; if you see an animal acting strangely, leave it alone and call law enforcement or CCHD.
Since it’s often impossible to tell if an animal has rabies, it’s imperative to treat every encounter with an unfamiliar animal, wild or domestic, with caution. If you have been bitten by an animal, contact your physician and report the incident to CCHD or Animal Control immediately.
For more information on rabies and prevention, visit the following links: