Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. In Maryland, rabies is found most often in raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, and groundhogs. Other mammals, including dogs, cats, and farm animals can also get rabies. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, but is completely preventable.
The Bureau of Environmental Health is responsible for protecting Howard County citizens and their pets from rabies. Each year over 600 incidents are reported in the county, and 5-10 animals test positive for the rabies virus. An Environmental Health Specialist or Community Health Nurse is on call 24 hours a day (410-313-1773 during business hours or 410-313-2929 after hours or on weekends or holidays) to evaluate all reported incidents. If a pet is involved in an incident, it is typically quarantined at the owner’s home so that it can be monitored for signs of rabies. Quarantines also prevent further exposure of people or animals to the rabies virus.
What does it mean to quarantine a pet/animal?
Quarantine means confinement to minimize contact with other people or animals. Whenever an animal causes an injury resulting in a break in the skin, it must be quarantined to allow the Health Department to determine if either you or your pet have been exposed to rabies. While under quarantine, the animal must be kept inside your home or other enclosure, and care taken to prevent or minimize contact with other people or animals. If your pet shows significant changes in behavior or becomes sick while under the quarantine, the Health Department Community Hygiene Program should be notified immediately at 410-313-1773.
What can you do to protect yourself and your pets from rabies?
The best prevention is to have your pet vaccinated. An animal that has been properly vaccinated is nearly 100% protected should it encounter another animal with rabies. Although most cases of rabies in the United States occur in wild animals, you should have your pets vaccinated on a regular basis to ensure they are protected. Vaccines work best if they are given before exposure and updated regularly. Rabies vaccination clinic information is available here.
Animal owners should also take care to maintain control of their pets to minimize contact with wild animals that may have rabies. Letting your pets run free, even if they are well-trained, increases the risk they may encounter a rabid animal.
For more information about rabies, visit these websites:
You can also download the following brochures or flyers: