Rabies warning signs and prevention

Left untreated, 99 percent of humans with rabies don't survive.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – East Windsor Police in Connecticut have confirmed that a fox that bit four people was infected with rabies. Rabies is a nasty virus for pets and humans, but luckily, if you take proper precautions, it’s very preventable.

Rabies is potentially deadly and much more common in wild animals than humans. Spread through saliva it can affect the nervous system, travelling up to the brain causing it to swell and shut down. Mammals of all kinds can get this virus, including dogs, cats and other pets.

If you have pets it’s very important you keep up with their rabies vaccines, even indoor pets because one of the more common ways to get rabies is actually through household bats. If your pets get bitten by a rabid animal and your pet has been vaccinated, a booster shot may be all that’s required to keep your pet healthy. Even if an animal is infected with rabies it can be weeks or months before they show symptoms.

“Looks drunk, it may have a lot of saliva formation. It may be stumbling, that kind of thing. Sometimes they’ll be extremely aggressive,” said Dr. Kirstin Losert, a veterinarian at Northampton Veterinary Clinic.

Luckily if a rabid animal bites a human, a treatment of rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin (antibody) will prevent rabies from causing medical problems, but you have to act within days of a bite.

“If you never knew you got bit, for example, and it was a rabid animal and you never got treated, once you have signs of rabies then there’s no effective treatment,” said Dr. Daniel Skiest, Chief Infection Disease Specialist at Baystate Medical Center.

Chances of survival once you have signs of rabies are less than 1 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only two to three people die each year in the United States from rabies thanks to the post bite treatment methods.

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