County Reminds Residents of Rabies Risk
Bucks County has five reported cases of rabies in 2012, the latest being a stray cat in Buckingham, which deliberately attacked a woman who walked in its path.
The Board of Commissioners join the Health Department to remind county residents that Bucks County is home to many varied species of animals, throughout the bucolic setting of the county, whether in a lively downtown or a rambling village.
As such, rabies has been reported in Pennsylvania for more than two decades, and it is important for residents to maintain certain safety protocols when around animals – wild and domestic – even as the summer comes to an end.
According to Dr. David Damsker it is important to remember that stray cats are wild animals.
"[Stray cats] are just like any raccoon, skunk or fox that you may see," Damsker said. "Wild animals have higher rabies risks. Don’t pick up or touch a stray cat any more than you would a skunk.”
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals which is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The virus infects the central nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Human rabies deaths in the United States are rare, however, due to the rabies vaccine and immune globulin.
Foxes, raccoons, bats, skunks and feral (or wild) cats are often the animals that hold the highest risk for rabies transmission. The Health Department cautions all residents to refrain from contact with these high-risk animals regardless of the behavior or appearance of the animal.
In the event one is exposed to either the animal’s saliva or secretions, the individual should seek immediate medical attention, as well as notify the Bucks County Health Department (215-345-3318).
The Health Department also offers the following rabies recommendations:
- Ensure that all household dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies. Pennsylvania state law mandates that all household dogs and cats over three months of age be properly vaccinated;
- Keep a watchful eye on pets while in an outdoor setting;
- Do not make any wild animal a household pet;
- If an animal appears sick, wounded, or behaves in a strange manner, that animal should be considered suspect for rabies and should not be handled;
- If exposed to the secretions or saliva of a potentially rabid animal, immediately cleanse the area with soap and water and seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
For additional information pertaining to rabies awareness and other public health threats, please contact the Bucks County Health Department at 215-345-3318, or visit the department information page on the official county Web site, www.BucksCounty.org.