Rabies Prevention

What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. In Maryland, rabies is found most

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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.

Warning! If you think you have been bitten or exposed to an animal that you suspect might have rabies (wild or domestic), don’t wait! Wash the wound with soap and water, and then go to the nearest hospital emergency room or medical professional as soon as possible. An animal can seem normal and still carry the rabies virus. Following exposure, the only way to avoid rabies’ deadly symptoms is to get medical attention right away.

How is the Howard County Health Department protecting you from rabies?

The Bureau of Environmental Health is the group responsible for protecting Howard County citizens and their pets from rabies. Each year over 600 incidents are reported in Howard County, and 5 to 10 animals test positive for the rabies virus.
A sanitarian or community health nurse, people who are knowledgeable about the effects of the rabies virus, are on-call 24 hours a day to evaluate all reported incidents. If a resident’s pet is involved in the incident, the pet is typically quarantined so that it can be monitored for signs of rabies. Quarantines also prevent further exposure of other people or animals to the rabies virus.

The Howard County Health Department also sponsor’s rabies vaccine clinics at the Animal Control facility. For more information about the clinic, click here.

What does it mean to quarantine an animal?

Whenever an animal causes an injury that results in a break in the skin it must be properly quarantined. Placing pets under quarantine allows the Health Department to determine if you or your pet has been exposed to rabies.

While an animal is under quarantine it must be properly confined by keeping it inside your home or other enclosure. Care should also be taken to minimize contact with other people or animals. If your pet shows any significant changes in behavior or becomes sick while under the quarantine, the Health Department should be notified immediately.

In the past, the State of Maryland required that any animal suspected of having the rabies virus be euthanized and tested for rabies. While the Health Department may still require euthanasia, we only seek this option in extreme circumstances where the health of you, your family or pets may be at immediate risk. Quarantines are the only alternative to euthanasia, and are just as effective in determining whether you or your family may be at risk for rabies.
What can you do to protect you 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 in case they are involved in an incident. Vaccines work best if they are given before an incident!
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.
A special note about bats:
Most of the recent human cases of rabies in the United States occurred after the victim had an encounter with a bat. Many times people didn’t even know they were bitten. If you find a bat and are unsure if you have been exposed contact our office, or the Animal Control Division (410-313-2780) for more guidance.

For more information about the rabies virus, visit these websites:

Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - Center for Veterinary Public Health
Or contact the Community Hygiene Program

at 410-313-1773.

You can also download the following brochures and flyers about rabies: