Health Department officials urging public to avoid with wild animals
The Allegheny County Health Department urges residents to avoid contact with wild animals, including bats. Animal bites of any type, including pets, strays, or wild animals should be immediately reported to avoid transmission of rabies, which is 100 percent preventable when prompt, appropriate medical care is provided.
“Animal bites can be reported to the Health Department 24 hours a day, every day, by calling 412-687-2243. If you are bitten, please wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical evaluation,” said Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker.
If the biting animal is a pet, it is important to get the owner’s name and phone number. If the biting animal is a stray or wild, it should be tested for rabies if possible. Bites by some animals, such as bats, can inflict minor injury and be difficult to detect. For that reason, if you find a bat in your home – especially in the bedroom – do not dispose of it or let it go before contacting the Health Department for an evaluation and risk assessment.
The rabies virus is transmitted to humans when it is introduced into a bite wound, open cuts in the skin or onto mucous membranes such as those in the mouth or on the eyes. It is important to note that individuals will only need a rabies post exposure vaccine series if an evaluation by a medical professional determines it is necessary.
While any mammal can get rabies, the most common carriers are bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Stray and feral cats also may have rabies. Domestic dogs and cats may have rabies too if they are not up to date with their vaccinations. Therefore, it is important to ensure your pets are current on their rabies shots.
Not every rabid animal acts aggressively or foams at the mouth. Some could appear tired or very tame. Please supervise children around animals, especially those which are unfamiliar to you. Also, do not attract wild animals to your property. Keep trash cans secured and do not leave pet food outdoors.
Over 1,500 animal exposures are reported in Allegheny County each year. Most exposures involve domestic dogs and cats, but exposures to bats and stray cats are also reported. More bites are reported in the summer than in other seasons. All ages are affected.
In 2014, 15 animals from Allegheny County tested positive for rabies, including six bats, four raccoons, two cats, two groundhogs and one skunk. So far, in 2015, three bats and two raccoons have tested positive.