Home   |   About Bucks   |   Site Map     Twitter Facebook

2019 News

County Health Officials Urge Vigilance, Precautions to Avert Rabies

May 7, 2019

Contact: Larry King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

As warmer weather draws Bucks County residents outside, please be aware that with the great outdoors comes a greater risk of having contact with rabid animals, both wild and domestic.

While deaths from rabies are rare, the disease nonetheless is always present in Pennsylvania. So a degree of vigilance and precaution is always in order during outdoor activities, the Bucks County Health Department advises.

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals, most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The virus invades the central nervous system, causing symptoms in humans such as fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches.

Rabies generally won’t kill a person if treatment is received quickly after a bite or scratch from a rabid animal.

In 2018 there were 13 reported cases of rabies in Bucks County wildlife, up from eight cases in 2017, the Health Department reports. In the past six years, the number has ranged from a low of eight cases to as many as 18, making it important to know the signs and to take precautions.

One form of rabies, known as furious rabies, is characterized in an animal by aggression, frothing at the mouth, biting, and daytime activity by normally nocturnal species. In a second form, paralytic rabies, the animal displays a lack of coordination, weakness in its hind limbs, and could have an open mouth or be drooling. It may even appear tame.

Foxes, raccoons, bats, skunks and feral cats often hold the highest risk for rabies transmission. The Health Department cautions all residents to refrain from contact with these high-risk animals, regardless of the animal’s behavior or appearance. Rabid raccoon

If bitten or exposed to the saliva or secretions of a high-risk animal, a person should seek immediate medical attention and notify the Health Department at 215-345-3318.

The Health Department also offers these recommendations for preventing rabies:

  • Ensure that all household dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies. Pennsylvania law mandates this for all household dogs and cats over three months of age.
  • Keep a close watch on pets while outdoors.
  • Don’t try to make a wild animal a household pet. Remember that feral cats are considered wild animals and should not be handled.
  • Any animal that appears sick or wounded, or is behaving strangely, should be considered suspect for rabies and should not be handled.
  • If exposed to secretions or saliva from a potentially rabid animal, immediately cleanse the exposed area with soap and water and seek medical assistance right away.

For more information about rabies awareness and other public health threats, please contact the Bucks County Health Department at 215-345-3318, or visit the department's rabies information page on the official county Web site, www.BucksCounty.org