Rabies Awareness

In recognition of Rabies Awareness Week from Sept. 23 to 29, the Henrico County Health Department reminds residents to stay away from stray or wild animals and to report them to authorities to avoid possible exposure to rabies.

Rabies, a virus that travels through the nervous system to the brain, is almost always fatal to humans and unvaccinated pets if it goes untreated. Rabies is carried by mammals and is transmitted to humans most frequently through bites, scratches or body fluids of infected raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, dogs and cats.

The Henrico Health Department has confirmed six cases of animals infected with rabies in 2013. Those cases, which involve three raccoons and three bats, followed an average of about 12 cases in each of the past three years.

“Several recent incidents have underscored how common sense and caution can help people avoid possible exposure to rabies and the associated treatment, which can be painful and expensive,” said Dr. Donald R. Stern, acting director of the Henrico Health Department. “One such case involved a person who picked up an injured fox and was bitten before the animal ran off. Another case involved a person who was bitten while attempting to help a stray dog that was having a seizure.

“The best response is to stay away and call the Animal Protection Unit if you see a stray or wild animal, particularly if it is behaving aggressively or unusually.”

The Henrico Health Department offers the following tips to avoid a rabies infection or treatment for possible exposure:

  • Make sure pets, including dogs, cats and ferrets, have current vaccinations. The Henrico Division of Police’s Animal Protection Unit conducts rabies vaccination clinics several times per year. The next clinic will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 19 in the parking deck at the Henrico County Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road.
  • Avoid and do not feed stray or wild animals. Enjoy them from a distance.
  • Make sure your home and yard do not attract stray or wild animals. Keep garbage cans securely covered. Cap chimneys. Seal places where animals may hide. Bring containers of pet food inside.
  • If you are scratched or bitten by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and call your doctor immediately.

To report a stray or wild animal, call the Henrico Animal Protection Unit at (804) 501-5000.