Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The virus attacks the nervous system and affects the brain and spinal cord of humans and animals. In Maryland, rabies is most frequently found in raccoons, cats, foxes, skunks, bats, and groundhogs.
Bats and Rabies
Every summer the Harford County Health Department receives phone calls from homeowners and tenants concerned about the discovery of a bat in their home or apartment. This event may have exposed them and their pets to the rabies virus. Although most bats are not infected with the rabies virus, it is impossible to tell just by observing them. If you find a bat in your home, apartment, or condominium unit, and you cannot rule out the possibility of an exposure, the bat must be safely captured for examination. To safely secure a bat, you will need leather work gloves, a small box or coffee can, a piece of cardboard and tape. When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing the gloves, and place the box or coffee can over it. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe. Contact the health department or Harford County Animal Control at 410-638-3505 to make arrangements for rabies testing. If you are unwilling to trap the bat on your own, please contact your management office, a wildlife control cooperator, or an animal control officer. Once the bat is confined, please contact the Harford County Health Department at 410-877-2300 for pick-up and a thorough risk assessment. If your dog, cat, ferret, or livestock has been exposed to a bat, and the bat is available, please contact the Harford County Health Department to arrange for laboratory examination. If the bat is not available for testing, you should contact either your veterinarian or the Harford County Health Department to assess your animal’s risk and implement the appropriate disease prevention measures.
If you would like to learn more about bats and rabies, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Information pertaining to bat exclusion, or “bat-proofing” your home, may be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website.
Raccoons and Pools
There is no doubt raccoons can be pests and can spread germs to humans, including rabies. However most people don’t know that it is important to keep raccoons out of your pool and watch for raccoon feces (poop) in and around your pool. Raccoon feces can sometimes contain the eggs of a worm called Baylisascaris procyonis, which can infect humans, particularly children, and cause severe neurological illness.
For more information regarding Baylisascaris procyonis please visit the Centers for Disease Control website. http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/pools/animals/raccoons-and-pools.html . Or if you have any questions please contact the Harford County Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health for further assistance.
Rabies pre-exposure vaccinations are offered to those who have frequent animal exposure through work or volunteering. Pre-exposure vaccination can decrease the need for extensive post-exposure treatment in the event of a rabies contact. There is a charge for the vaccination to cover the cost of the vaccine. Please call 410-612-1774 for an appointment.
Post-exposure vaccinations are available to those who have been in contact with a known positive animal, or an animal that cannot be found for testing. It will also be provided to persons who may have come in contact with a bat or awakened to find a bat in their room.
Please call the Health Department at 410-612-1774 for additional information or view this rabies post exposure fact sheet. You should also contact the Harford County Rabies and Vector Control Division at 410-877-2315.
Rabies Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is rabies?
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.
2. Where is rabies found?
Rabies is found in the saliva of infected animals.
3. What can happen if I become infected with rabies?
If not treated, Rabies almost always results in fatal encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and its membranes.
4. How do I protect myself and others from the rabies virus?
- Do not feed wild animals or approach any wild animal or stray pet.
- Be a responsible pet owner. Keep all rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, and ferrets.
- Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come into contact with wild animals.
- Do not leave pet food, or any food, outside that may attract wild animals.
- Spay or neuter your pets.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
5. What should I do if find a sick or injured wild animal
As a general rule the public should leave wildlife alone where found, particularly Rabies Vector Species (RVS). Rabies vector species include raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats. Should the public want to provide assistance they should call the closest licensed professionals: Mr. Arthur Woods, 410-939-5777 (transport only); Ms. Barbara Connor, 410-357-5179 of Wildlife Rescue (transport and rehabilitation); and Ms. Kathleen Woods, 410-628-9736 of Phoenix Wildlife Center (transport and rehabilitation). These individuals have the necessary permits and training to legally transport and care for these animals safely. There are no licensed wildlife rehabilitators with a RVS Permit operating in Harford County. The closest facilities are in Baltimore County – Wildlife Rescue, located at 2231 Bulls Sawmill Road in Freeland and Phoenix Wildlife Center, located at 14530 Manor Road in Phoenix.
6. What should I do if exposed to an animal that might have rabies?
- Care for the wound. Wash it and apply an antiseptic.
- If possible to do so without further endangering yourself, confine the animal and call the Harford County Rabies and Vector Control Division at 410-877-2315.
- See your private provider or nearest ER for further wound care, tetanus immunization as necessary, and/or recommendations concerning post-exposure rabies treatment.
- If treatment is recommended, the Health Department will work with you and your provider to determine the best plan for completing the rabies vaccine series.
7. Where can I find additional information on rabies?
More information can be found via the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies