Environmental Health Rabies Control
The Bureau of Environmental Health is charged with minimizing the effects of rabies on Carroll County’s citizens. This is accomplished in cooperation with the Department’s Bureau of Community Health Services, local law enforcement, the County Humane Society, and other State and local agencies. The Bureau is responsible for investigation of animal bites, managing quarantines, conducting vaccination clinics for dogs, cats and ferrets, and determining when animals must be euthanized and /or submitted for laboratory testing.
- Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that is easily transmittable from animals to humans.
- The rabies virus lives in the saliva of rabid animals and can be transmitted through a bite, a scratch, or a lick in a wound, the eye, or the mouth.
- Skunks, bats, foxes, raccoons, dogs, cats, ferrets, and some farm animals are most likely to get rabies. Rabbits, opossums, squirrels, rats, and mice seldom get it. Birds, insects, fish, turtles, reptiles, and amphibians do not get rabies.
- There is no accepted rabies vaccination for wild animals, but rabies can be prevented in cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cows, sheep and goats with a rabies vaccination.
- Those most likely to be exposed are cats and dogs kept outside, farm animals, and humans who trap, hike, and camp.
Who to Contact To report an animal bite or for general rabies questions during business hours (Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm), contact the Health Department at 410-876-1884 or 1-800-966-3877. During the evening or on weekends in a non-emergency situation, contact Animal Control 410-848-4810 or the Emergency Communications Center at 410-386-2260. In case of an emergency, dial 911.
- Try to capture the animal or, if the animal is wild, try to kill it. Try not to damage the animal’s head, so it can be more easily tested for rabies.
- Immediately wash the wound with plenty of soap and water, scrubbing the bitten area gently. Dry the wound.
- If the animal is a pet dog or cat, obtain the pet owner’s name, address and telephone number. Find out if the animal has a current rabies shot (immunization) and write down the rabies tag number.
- Get prompt medical attention, if necessary. Go to your family doctor or nearest emergency room.
- Report the incident to the police. If your pet dog or cat is involved in a fight with a wild animal:
- Do not handle your pet for two hours after the fight. This will give any infected saliva time to dry, killing the virus.
- If your immunized pet dog or cat has been bitten, they will need another rabies vaccination. The animal will also have to be kept on a leash or caged for 45 days.
- If your pet is not currently vaccinated, it will have to be placed in strict isolation for six months or euthanized.
What You Can Do To Prevent and Control Rabies
Cats, dogs, ferrets, and selected livestock need up-to-date rabies vaccinations. Re-vaccination should be every 1 to 3 years, depending on the type of vaccine used. Puppies and kittens vaccinated between the ages of 3-12 months, and dogs and cats receiving their first vaccination, must be revaccinated within 12 months. It will not harm your pet to have it vaccinated every year if you wish.
The Bureau of Environmental Health offers at-cost anti-rabies vaccination clinics for dogs, cats, and ferrets each year. Our next vaccination clinic is scheduled for Sunday, April 7, 2024, from 2-4 pm at the Ag Center in Westminster. The cost is $10 per pet. Call 410-876-1884 for more information.
If your vaccinated pet is attacked or bitten by a rabid animal, be sure to have it revaccinated with a booster. If your pet is not vaccinated, it may have to be kept in strict isolation for six months or euthanized.
Pets running at large are more likely to be exposed to rabies. It is much safer to keep pets in your home or yard and, if off your property, walked on a leash. Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Wild animals should not be kept as pets. They are a potential rabies threat to their owners and others. Even a baby skunk or raccoon, born in captivity, can be a rabies carrier.
Avoid strange animals even if they appear friendly. Do not try to coax wild animals to eat from your hand. Never approach or touch wild animals or pets you do not own. Children should be told to immediately report any bite, scratch, or contact with a strange or wild animal.
Make your house and yard unattractive to wild animals. Feed pets inside the house. Keep garbage in tightly closed trash cans and do not set trash out the night before it is to be collected. Cap chimneys. Seal off any openings in the attic, under porches, and in basements and outbuildings.
Dog Bite Prevention Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.
- Children must be taught NOT to approach strange dogs. Children should be taught to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting the dog.
- Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
- If a dog approaches to sniff you- stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you’re not a threat.
- If you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
- If you fall or are knocked down to the ground, curl up into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.
- Spend time with a dog before adopting it.
- Properly socialize and train your dog.
- Have your dog spayed or neutered.
- Obey leash laws.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Avoid making direct eye contact with a dog.
- Never play aggressive games (such as wrestling) with your pet
- Use caution when bringing a puppy or dog into a home with an infant or toddler and never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
- Seek advice from a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder if your dog exhibits any aggressive behaviors such as growling, nipping, or biting.
If you or your child is bitten by a dog or any other animal, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number. Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water and get prompt medical attention. Be sure to report the incident to your local animal control agency, health department, or police. Although dog bites are a serious public health problem, dogs provide many health and social benefits to people and most of the approximately 55 million dogs in the United States never bite humans. For more information on preventing dog bites, contact your local health department.
What should I do if my dog bites someone? Even if the bite can be explained (perhaps someone stepped on the dog’s foot), it is important to take responsibility for your dog’s actions by taking these steps:
- Restrain the dog immediately. Separate it from the scene of the attack. Confine it.
- Check on the victim’s condition.
- Wash wounds with soap and water.
- Seek professional medical advice to evaluate the risk of rabies or other infections. Call 911, if paramedic response is required.
- Provide important information: your name and address, and information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination.
- Report the dog bite to the police, animal control, or your local health department.
- Consult your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar problems in the future.
Dogs are wonderful companions. By acting responsibly, owners not only reduce the number of dog bites, but also enhance the relationships they have with their dogs.
Rabies Treatment Once the signs of rabies appear, the disease almost always causes death. If caught in time, it can be prevented. After a person is bitten by an animal proven to have rabies, a doctor must be contacted immediately and anti-rabies treatment begun. The treatment consists of antiserum, plus five doses of vaccine given over a one-month period. This treatment has been very successful. None of the injections are given in the stomach area. No one who has received proper treatment has died from rabies. Vaccination against rabies before exposure is not recommended for the general public. Only those individuals who are regularly at risk for rabies exposure should get this vaccine (for example, veterinarians and animal control workers).
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can people get rabies? Since rabies lives in rabid animals’ saliva, a bite is the most common way it is transmitted. Saliva that gets into open wounds, eyes, nose or mouth can also be a problem. Just petting or touching a rabid animal or pet which has had contact with a rabid animal, or being in an area where rabid animals have been does not result in a rabies exposure.
- What should I do if I think my dog, cat, ferret, or farm animal has rabies? Consult a veterinarian and report to the local law enforcement agency if any person has been bitten or exposed to the suspect animal. Be sure to keep the animal confined until it can be examined by a veterinarian. Try not to expose yourself or other people to the animal.
- What should I do if I see a stray or wild animal that I think may have rabies? Do not feed or handle it. Keep your own animals from coming in contact with it. Capture the animal, if possible, without risking exposure. For example, if the raccoon is in a garage, close all doors and windows. Then call your local animal control agency for further instructions.
- What should I do if I find a dead animal on my property? If there has been human or animal exposure, contact your local health department for instructions. If there has been no human or animal exposure, you can bury the animal. If it is necessary to touch the animal, wear gloves. An easy way to handle the animal is to stick your hand into a garbage bag, grab the animal by a leg through the garbage bag, then pull the bag over the animal and tie it shut. Then, bury the animal, preferably three feet deep, or dispose of it through the local animal control agency. Do not throw it out along a road, or in a wooded area or field.
- What should I do if my dog, cat, ferret, or farm animal has been exposed to a wild animal that I think may have rabies? Do not handle, pet, touch or examine your animal for at least 2 hours. The wild animal should be captured or killed, being careful not to damage the head, and submitted for rabies testing through the local health department. In doing this, you should be careful not to get bitten or exposed to the wild animal. Assistance may be available through your local animal control agency.
- What will be done with the animal that bit (or exposed) me to find out if it has rabies? If it is a dog, cat, ferret, or farm animal, it will be quarantined for 10 days, to find out if it had rabies at the time it bit you. If it is a wild animal, it will probably have to be destroyed and the head submitted for testing to the laboratory.
- Should I get vaccinated against rabies? The pre-exposure vaccination is only recommended for people who regularly handle animals and, therefore, may be at high risk of exposure to rabies. High-risk groups include veterinarians, animal control workers, trappers, and raccoon hunters.