Rabies in Nebraska

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kevin Ragsdale
  • 55th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system transmitted from infected animals to people and other animals through a bite or a saliva-infected scratch. Unless preventive treatment is promptly given, rabies is almost always fatal. 

Many warm-blooded mammals can harbor the rabies virus. Reptiles and birds are not known to carry rabies. Domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, are at risk of being infected with rabies, so it is very important to keep pets vaccinations updated. 

To reduce the risk of rabies exposure, caution must be observed around all wild and stray animals. If an animal is acting strangely, leave it alone. Examples of strange behavior are nocturnal animals such as skunks and raccoons being active during the day or when wild animals seem tame and approach people. This unusual behavior also applies to domestic animals, such as when a normally tame and sociable animal becomes vicious or is unresponsive. 

If a bite or scratch occurs, wash the wound with soap and warm water immediately. Next, seek medical attention. Medical professionals will determine the risk factors and if any treatment is necessary. Any exposure to stray or wild animal saliva should be reported to medical authorities immediately. 

In Nebraska, the most common host for rabies are skunks, followed by cows. So far in 2009, rabies has already been found in bats, cats, dogs, foxes and horses. 

Last year, an Offutt family member was exposed to a rabid bat off base. This single exposure resulted in several people needing the rabies vaccination series. 

Not all bats harbor rabies, but any exposure to a bat should be treated with extreme caution and reported to medical authorities. Here are steps to take in the event a bat is found indoors: 

· If a bat enters an Offutt workplace, secure the area and call civil engineering at 294-6101 during duty hours or 294-3301 after hours.
· If a bat enters a Rising View home, secure the area and call Rising View at 991-9820.
· If a bat enters a workplace or home in the local community, contact the local Humane Society or Animal Control.

For more information on rabies, call Public Health at 294-9361, or visit the Center for Disease and Control Web site at www.cdc.gov/rabies.