The Berkshire Humane Society was on-air with us this morning reminding people of the free rabies vaccine clinic that took place a few months ago. John was reminding us just how serious rabies is.

Rabies is often mentioned as the butt of the joke in memes or when people say things like "rabid fan base" when describing followers of certain popular world entertainers, but rabies will absolutely kill you if left untreated.

Mass. Residents: This Animal Virus Will Kill You If Untreated

Rabies is 100% fatal if you don't seek treatment at a hospital.


Rabies is a vaccine-preventable, zoonotic, viral disease affecting the central nervous system. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Yet, rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals. It spreads to people and animals via saliva, usually through bites, scratches or direct contact with mucosa (e.g. eyes, mouth or open wounds). Children between the age of 5 and 14 years are frequent victims. World Health Organization

What animals carry the Rabies virus?

Getty Images
Getty Images

Dogs mostly, but any warm blooded mammal. Birds, snakes and fish do not carry the virus since they aren't mammals.

Bats also carry the rabies virus and are responsible for transmitting the virus to humans yearly that result in death.

Raccoons, skunks, foxes and cats can all carry rabies in Massachusetts.

60,000 Americans receive post exposure treatment after an animal suspected of being infected either bites or scratches a human.


Avoiding Animals with Rabies

I was bit in the leg some years back and had to get police to make sure the owner had his dog vaccinated for rabies.

The best thing to do is to never feed or approach a wild animal. Be careful of pets that you do not know. If you see a stray dog or cat, don’t pet it. This is especially important if you are traveling in a country where rabies in dogs is common. And if any animal is acting strangely, call your local animal control officer for help. Some things to look for are:

  • general sickness
  • problems swallowing
  • excessive drool or saliva
  • an animal that is overly aggressive
  • an animal that bites at imaginary objects (sometimes called “fly biting”)
  • an animal that appears tamer than you would expect
  • an animal that’s having trouble moving or may even be paralyzed
  • a bat that is on the ground

If you’ve been in direct physical contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, particularly if you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should talk with a healthcare or public health professional to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses.

One important factor in deciding if you should receive rabies vaccination (post exposure prophylaxis) will be if the animal you were exposed to can be found and tested for rabies or held for observation.

If you need rabies vaccination, it should be started soon after exposure; so talk to a healthcare provider right away to determine if you need it.

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