Commission Reminds Residents to Take Steps to Prevent Exposure to Rabies Virus
BOSTON – The Boston Public Health Commission is reminding Jamaica Plain residents to steer clear of stray and wild animals, after at least one person was exposed to a rabid raccoon and is now receiving post-exposure prophylaxis, said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Infectious Disease Bureau.
City public health officials were notified late yesterday by the Massachusetts State Laboratory Institute that the raccoon picked up in Jamaica Plain on Sept. 19 was rabid. They immediately began an investigation to determine if anyone had been exposed to the rabid animal. Health officials also plan to distribute fliers in Jamaica Plain to alert residents to the rabies case and instruct them on what to do if they think they have been exposed.
Rabies, a rare illness caused by a virus, spreads to animals or people through saliva (spit) of infected animals. This usually occurs after a bite or scratch from an animal with the disease. Any mammal can get rabies, but it is more commonly found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, and cats, according to the Public Health Commission.
Rabies is very serious illness affecting a person’s central nervous system. To prevent rabies, it is important to avoid being bitten or scratched by a potentially infected animal. Never touch, feed, or take care of wild animals, stray dogs, or cats. Avoid any animal that is acting strange or sick. Do not keep wild animals as pets, touch, or pick up any dead animal. Do not attract wild animals to your house by feeding pets outside or leaving garbage cans open or litter.
Family pets, such as dogs, cats, or ferrets, can become infected with the virus if they are bitten by an animal with the disease. Therefore, be sure that your pet is up-to date with their rabies vaccinations. Keep your pet under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals and if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat, seek veterinary assistance for your pet immediately.
Be sure to prevent bats from getting into your home by covering up holes in roofs or other open areas. If you wake up with a bat in your room, be sure to seek medical care as soon as possible since bat bites are mild and often go unnoticed. If possible, carefully catch the bat, making sure to avoid being bitten, so that it can be tested for rabies. Finally, be sure to teach children how to stay safe from rabies and to avoid contact with any animal they do not know.
If you are bitten by an unknown stray animal or wild animal that potentially has rabies, wash the wound well with soap and water and contact your healthcare provider or go to your nearest emergency room to seek medical care. There are treatments available to prevent rabies illness after an exposure but they must be started within a specific timeframe.
For more information about rabies, please contact the Boston Public Health Commission, Infectious Disease Bureau at 617-534-5611.