Rabies is a public health issue because it is a viral disease that is fatal in mammals, including man and domestic pets (dogs, cats, and livestock). It is transmitted by the bite or scratch of an infected animal through its saliva. Rabies is preventable in domestic animals through routine vaccination but is not curable after the onset of symptoms. Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People get rabies from the bite of an animal infected with rabies. Any wild mammal, like a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat can have rabies and transmit it to people and other animals. Dogs and cats and other domestic animals can also transmit rabies.
Because rabies is a fatal disease, the goals of NCAC are to prevent human exposure through education; response to any cases in which exposure to a rabid animal might have occurred; impounding an animal suspected of rabies for quarantine or laboratory testing to determine if exposure occurred.
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus (Lyssavirus) found in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to other warm-blooded animals, including humans by a bite, scratch or possibly by contamination of an open cut. Deadly and costly, rabies ranks as one of the top zoonotic diseases in the United States and the world.
There are no reliable, standardized antemortem (live animal) tests that can be used to confirm whether an animal is infected with rabies.
Rabies virus infects the central nervous system (CNS), causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
Types of exposures:
- Animal vs. human: When any warm-blooded animal breaks the skin of a human with its teeth or nails, the human may be exposed to rabies.
- Pet vs. wildlife: When a pet dog/cat has come in physical contact with a wild mammal. (E.g. skunk, bat, raccoon, etc.)
State law requires that the animal involved in a bite or a scratch be quarantined for 10 days. If the animal remains healthy for the 10-day period, it cannot have been shedding the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of the scratch or bite.
Navajo County Rabies Control enforces State laws that require all animals involved in a bite or scratch on a human to be quarantined for a period of 10 days after the date of the bite. If the animal remains healthy for the 10-day period the State of Arizona, Veterinary Public Health Section has advised that it could not have been shedding the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of the bite.
Types of Quarantines
All animals involved in a bite must be quarantined for rabies observation for 10 days at the owners' expense. This state law (ARS 11-1014A) is to protect the population from possible exposure to rabies and limit the spread of this deadly disease. It is important to note that even though we do not have a rabies problem Per Se in Navajo County, compliance with the quarantine requirement is not optional. If an animal owner can't show a current rabies vaccination certificate to the Enforcement Agent at the time of the bite response, the animal will be taken for quarantine at a County contracted pound facility, or at the request of the owner, at a veterinary hospital. If a current rabies vaccination certificate can be shown to the Enforcement Agent at the time of the bite response, and the owner qualifies and agrees to comply with the strict home quarantine requirements, a home quarantine may be considered dependent upon the totality of the circumstances and at the discretion of the Enforcement Agent as per Arizona Revised Statutes.
What to Do if an Animal Bites You
If bitten by an animal, immediately wash the wound with soap and water and then contact your physician. Prevention and education are the keys to keeping you and your family safe from disease. Try to capture the animal without damaging its head or risking further exposure. Notify your local Animal Control office. If the biting animal is a dog, cat, or livestock animal, they will place it under a 10-day quarantine observation. If it remains healthy for that period, no risk of rabies transmission exists. If a bat, skunk, fox, coyote, or other wild animal bites you, the animal should be presumed rabid until laboratory testing is complete. Call local Animal Control and the local Health Department about whether you need to start anti-rabies preventative treatment.
For further information concerning rabies go to the Arizona Health Services Website.