Animal bites and scratches, even when they are minor, can become infected and spread bacteria to other parts of the body. Whether the bite is from a family pet or an animal in the wild, scratches and bites can carry disease. Certain animals can transmit rabies and tetanus to other animals and humans. Bites that break the skin are even more likely to become infected. Seek the advise of a physician or healthcare provider should you have any questions or concerns about an animal bite. What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral infection of certain warm-blooded animals and is caused by a virus in the Rhabdoviridae family. It attacks the nervous system and, once symptoms develop, is 100 percent fatal in animals if left untreated. In Sutter County, rabies occurs primarily in bats and skunks. Other potential wild animals include coyotes, raccoons, and foxes. In some instances these wild animals can infect domestic cats, dogs and livestock. In the United States, cats are more likely than dogs to be rabid. According to the CDPH in the period between 2007 and 2014, fifteen bats were reported as rabid in Sutter County. No other animals or humans were reported as rabid during this time period in the County. Generally, rabies is rare in small rodents such as beavers, chipmunks, squirrels, rats, mice, or hamsters. Rabies is also rare in rabbits. How does rabies occur?
The rabies virus enters the body through a cut or scratch, or through mucous membranes (such as the lining of the mouth and eyes), and travels to the central nervous system. Once the infection is established in the brain, the virus travels down the nerves from the brain and multiplies in different organs. The salivary glands and organs are most important in the spread of rabies from one animal to another. When an infected animal bites another animal, the rabies virus is transmitted through the infected animal's saliva. Scratches by claws of rabid animals are also dangerous because these animals lick their claws. How can animal bites and rabies be prevented?
Being safe around animals, even your own pets, can help reduce the risk of animal bites. Some general guidelines for avoiding animal bites and rabies include the following:
- Do not try to separate fighting animals.
- Avoid strange and sick animals.
- Leave animals alone when they are eating.
- Keep pets on a leash when out in public.
- Select family pets carefully.
- Never leave a young child alone with a pet.
- All domestic dogs and cats should be immunized against rabies and shots kept current.
- Do not approach or play with wild animals of any kind, and be aware that domestic animals may also be infected with rabies.
- Supervise pets so they do not come into contact with wild animals.
- Call Sutter County Animal Services to remove any stray animals.
If you or someone you know is bitten by an animal, remember these facts to report to your healthcare provider:
- location of the accident
- type of animal involved (domestic pet or wild animal)
- type of exposure (cut, scratch, licking of open wound)
- part of the body involved
- number of exposures
- whether or not the animal has been immunized against rabies
- whether or not the animal is sick or well - if "sick," what symptoms were present in the animal
- whether or not the animal is available for testing or quarantine
California Dept of Public Health - Center for Infectious Diseases
Additional information about rabies on a statewide level can be found at the CDPH Center for Infectious Diseases.
California Dept of Public Health - Rabies Fact Sheet
Rabies fact sheet from the CDPH.
Center for Disease Control - Rabies Home
Rabies information from the Center for Disease Control.
Note: We are not responsible for the content of external web sites. View the County's External Website Disclaimer.