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With 27 rabies cases reported so far this year, including three confirmed in animals in Garland County, the Arkansas Department of Health is reminding Arkansans to know the signs of rabies and what to do if they are bitten by a rabid animal.

Of the cases reported in the state, 15 were skunks, 11 were bats, and one was a dog. Of the three cases reported in Garland County, two were bats, and one a skunk, as of Sept. 13.

In 2017, Garland County reported six positive cases of rabies in bats and one in a skunk.

"Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the brain and nerves in humans and other mammals. Today, which is World Rabies Day, ADH is reminding Arkansans to know the signs of rabies in animals and what to do if they are bitten by an animal," the health department said in a news release.

Rabies can be contracted through a bite or saliva from an infected animal. In Arkansas, the animals that most often carry rabies are skunks and bats, but any mammal can become infected by one of these species, the release said.

"Animals do not have to be aggressive or behaving erratically to have rabies. Changes in any animal's normal behavior can be early signs of rabies," it said.

"Report abnormal animal behavior to animal control or law enforcement. If it can be done safely, capture or confine the animal, or identify it before it runs away. Do not try to pick the animal up. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment. A potential rabies exposure should never be taken lightly. If untreated, rabies is fatal," the release said.

The human rabies vaccine, administered after a possible exposure, is "highly effective" at preventing the progression to rabies disease. "However, once an infected person develops symptoms of rabies there is no effective treatment, and the infected person will most likely die. Timely reporting of animal bites allows public health experts to offer recommendations on the need for rabies vaccination," it said.

Bats that are on the ground, unable to fly, or active during the day are more likely than others to be rabid, the release said.

"Such bats are often easily approached but should never be handled. If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit or destroy it and do not try and remove it from your home. If a bat is found in the same room as a sleeping person, ill or elderly adult, unattended child or in the proximity of an unattended pet, contact the ADH for consultation. A bat bite or scratch may not be seen or even felt by the injured person due to the small size of its teeth and claws," the health department said.

Email the ADH Zoonotic Disease Section at adh.zoonotic@arkansas.gov or call 501-280-4136 for more information.

Local on 09/29/2018

Print Headline: Arkansas Department of Health reminds public of rabies danger

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