is a rare disease caused by a virus that affects all mammals. It can be carried
by any mammal and transmitted by an infected mammal to another through a bite
or scratch that breaks the skin or through contact with a mucus membrane. The
rabies virus attacks the brain and nervous system, leading to death. Whenever a
human is bitten by a mammal that is capable of transmitting the rabies virus,
the Health Department is responsible for attempting to have the animal is
confined by the owner for a period of ten days after the bite for rabies
observation. The only animals that can be confined are dogs, cats and ferrets.
Animals bite for many reasons (protecting their young or territory, if they
are hurt, as a result of being tormented) and you should not assume that
the animal that bit you has rabies. In Washington State, the risk of
contracting rabies from an animal is extremely low. In fact the only mammal in
Washington known to carry rabies is the bat. Often, there will be no instances
of rabies in cats or dogs in the state of Washington. The most recent case was In
November of 2002, a cat in Walla Walla County. The cat was infected by a bat. (For more information
about rabies in Washington, click here)
animal (a dog, cat or ferret) must be kept by the owner on a leash or in a
tightly fenced yard for a ten day period after the bite. It is very
important that the animal be kept ALIVE for this ten day period.
The purpose of confining the animal is to make sure that the animal does not
have rabies. Rabies is infectious in the last stages of the disease. If the
animal (a dog, cat, or ferret) does have rabies, it will not live for more than
10 days. Therefore, if the animal is alive and healthy at the end of the ten
day period, we are assured that the animal did not have rabies. All other
animals, including wolf hybrids or wildcats, must be sacrificed for testing to
protect the health of the human that was bitten. Unfortunately, the rabies
incubation period is only known for dogs, cats, and ferrets.
If the animal dies within the 10 day period or rabies symptoms develop (i.e.
inability to swallow, protruding tongue, or marked changes in the animal's
disposition) the owner should notify the Benton Franklin District Health
Department by calling 460 4200 immediately so that we can arrange
testing of the animal. The animal must be tested for rabies to allow the victim
to make the best decision about their health care choices.
What To Do If You
Have Been Bitten
after you are bitten or scratched, gently wash the wound with soap and water
for at least 10 minutes. Simply washing the wound is very important to minimize
your risk of contacting rabies. After you have washed the wound, seek medical
attention as soon as possible. If the wound is severe, go directly to the
emergency department of your local medical center. If possible, locate the
owner of the animal and get their name, address and telephone number.
Although the wound may not seem to warrant medical attention, you still should
contact your medical provider as you may need to get a tetanus shot or a
booster. At the medical facility you will be asked to fill out a bite report,
which will be forwarded to the Health District.
If you choose not seek medical attention, please call the Health District at
460-4205 and ask to fill out a bite report. Please do not attempt to download
and mail the bite report. It is best to call in the report right away so that
we can notify the owner of the animal of the observation period immediately. The
report form can be used as a guide to the information you will be requested to
provide over the phone. Bite
Benton-Franklin Health District will contact the owner of the dog, cat or
ferret and ask that it be kept alive and impounded for a period of 10 days for
rabies surveillance. Once the 10 day period has ended, we will contact the
owner regarding the status of the animal. If the animal is alive and healthy,
this will end the Health Department's involvement with the owner and the
animal. At this point the animal will no longer need to be kept impounded.
If more than 10 days have past since the bite and you have not heard from the
Health District, you can safely assume that the animal survived the 10 day
observation period and there is no risk of rabies. You will only be
contacted if you need to seek additional medical treatment or if the animal
could not be located for impounding.
If you are bitten by a wild animal, you will still need to fill out and submit
a bite report to the Health District. If you are able to safely capture the
animal that bit you, please do so in order that it may be tested. Someone from
our office will be in touch with you regarding testing of the animal. You will
more than likely be advised to seek medical attention for the bite and to
discuss with your doctor the options available to you. If you or your medical
provider would like to speak to us or the State Epidemiologist Lab for more
rabies information, please give us a call and we will refer you to the proper
What To Do If Your
Pet Bites Someone
pet bites someone, call the Benton-Franklin District Health Department at 460
4200 to report the incident. Link to Bite Report information listed above (Click here to view
the information needed for a bite report). It is better to call in the information
than to mail in the report because of the timeliness of confining your animal.
The victim will be asked to fill out the same report when they seek medical
treatment. If the victim filled out the report, you will be contacted by the
Health Department and asked for additional information about the animal (as
indicated on the bite report). Most importantly, you will be asked to confine
your animal for a 10 day observation period. This means keeping the animal on a
leash or in a tightly fenced yard for a ten day period after the bite
It is extremely important that the animal be kept ALIVE during this 10 day
observation period. If the animal dies or is put down, it will need to be
tested in order to protect the victim from the possibility of contracting rabies.
While the risk is very low, rabies is a fatal disease for which there is no cure. If you, as the
animal owner, are unable or unwilling to keep the animal alive for the 10 day
surveillance period, you may take the animal to a veterinarian, kennel, or
animal shelter and kennel the animal for the 10 day period. There will be a
charge to you for kenneling the animal.
If the animal bit because it was already sick or injured and will not survive
the 10-day observation period, please make arrangements with a veterinarian to
put the animal down and contact us at the Health District to make arrangements
for testing the animal. Do not attempt to put the animal down yourself as this
may render the animal unable to be tested.
If your pet is an animal other than a dog, cat or ferret, it will need to be
sacrificed for testing. Because the incubation period for rabies in animals
other than dogs, cats, or ferrets is not known, we cannot safely confine the
animal and be able to recommend treatment in a timely fashion to the victim.
Treatment for rabies in a victim is only effective if given before symptoms
show up. Once symptoms occur, it is too late for the victim and the result is
vaccine for rabies is available for human victims. It is no longer a long set
of pain shots in the abdomen. Today's rabies vaccine is a 5 shot series given
in the arm over a 28 day period. (click here for more
information about the human rabies vaccine).
If your pet has been bitten by a wild animal, it is recommended that you
contact your veterinarian about getting a rabies vaccination, or a booster if
your pet has already been vaccinated.
Safety tips to avoid
being bitten by a dog
- Don't run past a dog. A dog's natural
instinct is to chase.
- Don't approach a strange dog!
- Let a dog see and sniff you before you
- Keep your dog confined. Chaining your
dog is not recommended.
- Spay or neuter your pet. Unaltered pets
are more likely to bite.
- Obedience train your dog. Obedience
training will make a happy dog and a happy owner.
- Scold your dog when it is aggressive.
Tell it in no uncertain terms "NO".
Washington the only known carrier of rabies is bats. In other states raccoons,
skunks, foxes or coyotes can carry rabies. About 5-10% of the bats tested carry
rabies. The bats that are tested usually are those that are caught because they
are either sick or have been trapped. Probably less than 1% of all bats have
During the fall, bats are seen more often around human homes as they search for
a warm, safe place to spend the winter
How Can I Avoid Being
Exposed to Rabies?
- Keep bats away from your living space.
- Do not handle bats. If you find one
lying on the ground, leave it alone, undisturbed, and keep your pets away
from it. There may be many reasons why a bat cannot fly. Often this is a
temporary condition and the bat will leave later.
- Have your pets (dogs and cats)
vaccinated against rabies. Make sure that you follow up with those
vaccinations and associated boosters.
How can I keep bats
from getting inside my home?
simplest way is to build them out. Find the places bats can get inside a home
and fix them. Some common ways bats can enter a home are:
- Through loose fitting doors to the
outside or attic
- Open, unscreened windows
- Unscreened chimneys
- Gaps in outside walls.
need an opening at least 3/8 x 7/8 inch to get in. You can tape over or plug
the holes with steel wool, cover chimneys with a one half inch hardware
screens, have doors fitted with draft guards and windows with screens. Bats do
not chew holes so if the entrance to the home is not there, they are easily
If you find bats in your home, close up all but one or two of their entrances.
After a few days the bats will get used to leaving by the openings that they
can still use. Then one evening, after they fly out, close up these entrances.
The best time of the year to do this is in the fall as baby bats are born in
the spring and early summer. If bats are in your home you do not want to trap
young bats inside your home.
Some people choose to put up bat houses. If you choose to use a bat house,
place it well away from your home and out of the reach of children.
What Is Considered an
- If you have any physical contact with a
bat (including being bitten or scratched).
- If you find a bat inside your
home. If you don't think you were bitten, but wake up with a bat in the
same room you were sleeping in or if a bat is found in the same room as an
unattended child, mentally challenged or intoxicated person, this can be
considered an exposure.
- If you are bitten or scratched by any
wild or stray animal.
bites and scratches are often not noticeable. Bat teeth are tiny and razor
sharp. They leave a mark the size of a pin prick, which can be easily
overlooked. Scratches are shallow and usually only a millimeter long. Because
it can be difficult to find a scratch or bite mark, any physical contact can be
considered an exposure.
What Do I Do If I
Think I Have Been Exposed?
- If you have been bitten, immediately
wash the bite site with plenty of soap and lots of running water for a
minimum of 10 minutes.
- Notify your physician, clinic or
- Call local health department
(Benton-Franklin Health District's Phone number 460 4205).
- If possible, catch the bat safely,
avoiding direct contact. Use heavy leather gloves, a net, and tongs. Put
it in a can and tightly cover it with a lid. Do not damage the head of the
bats, because the brain is needed for testing. The Health Department will
make arrangements with you to send the bat off for testing.
should be captured only if there has been direct contact with a person
or pet, or if the bat was found in the room of someone who might have been
bitten. Once these bats are captured, they should be tested for rabies
infection. Do not release a live bat, or throw out a dead bat, that has
bitten or scratched, or has had direct contact with a person, unless Public
Health has told you that it will not be necessary to test the bat.
The following ideas are offered as ways to safely capture a bat:
- Never handle bats with bare hands. Wear
thick gloves to pick up the bat or pick up the bat with a shovel, or dust
- Wait until the bat has landed. Place an
empty can or waste-basket over the bat and slide cardboard underneath
these to contain the bat.
- If the bat is still flying, try striking
it with a broom, or tennis racket, in order to knock it down. You can also
try to capture it in a net.
- If a bat is found dead, place the bat in
a sealed can or jar, or place it in a plastic bag that is within another
- Bats should be carefully placed in a
container that can be sealed (such as a coffee can or plastic container
with a lid).
- If you need help capturing a bat,
certain pest control or nuisance wildlife companies can help you. Be
certain that the company is familiar with Public Health guidelines and is
willing to turn the bat over for rabies testing if necessary.
- Bats that will be sent to a laboratory
for testing should be refrigerated (not frozen) until the laboratory can
- Contact Public Health at 509-460 4200 to
determine whether a captured bat should be tested for rabies. If you
capture a bat after regular work hours, call Public Health on the next
workday. Keep the bat in a sealed container, as described above, and store
in a cooler or refrigerator until you have contacted Public Health.
- If Public Health has told you that it is
not necessary to test the bat, and the bat is alive, you can release the
bat outside and away from your home.
The information above was taken from the Seattle and King
Counties Public Health Website.
What happens if I
have been exposed?
exposure has been established, a post exposure set of 5 shots will be
administered by your physician. The shots are no longer painful, nor injected
in the stomach. The shots are administered in the upper arm. If the animal was
able to be tested, the results of the test will decide whether or not post
exposure treatment is necessary.
do humans a service - an individual bat consumes hundreds of insects each
night. They are a vital part of our ecological system and should not be
Other Bats and Rabies related sites: