From its plentiful parks and its scenic natural vistas, bucolic Bucks County provides many opportunities to co-exist with animal life. Hiking, camping, even walking your dog through the neighborhood allows increased insight to the many varied species of animals that share our community home. Unfortunately, with the prominent cohabitation comes a risk. Rabies have been reported in Pennsylvania for more than two decades, and the Bucks County Commissioners continue to join the educational efforts of the Health Department by spreading the word to be mindful of safety protocols when around animals - both wild and domestic - this spring and summer.
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals which is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The virus infects the central nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Human rabies deaths in the United States are rare, however, due to the rabies vaccine and immune globulin.
In 2012 there were seven (7) reported cases of rabies in Bucks County. During 2011, the Health Department reported nine (9) cases in the county. In the past 10 years there have been as few as four (4) cases and as many as 18, so it is important to stay vigilant, know the signs and take precautions.
Foxes, raccoons, bats, skunks and feral (or wild) cats are often the animals that hold the highest risk for rabies transmission. The Health Department cautions all residents to refrain from contact with these high-risk animals regardless of the behavior or appearance of the animal. In the event one is exposed to either the animal's saliva or secretions, the individual should seek immediate medical attention, as well as notify the Bucks County Health Department (215-345-3318).
The Health Department also offers the following rabies recommendations:
Ensure that all household dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies. This recommendation is consistent with the Pennsylvania state law mandating that all household dogs and cats over three months of age be properly vaccinated;
Keep a watchful eye on pets while in an outdoor setting;
Do not make any wild animal a household pet;
If an animal appears sick, wounded, or behaves in a strange manner, that animal should be considered suspect for rabies and should not be handled;
If exposed to the secretions or saliva of a potentially rabid animal, immediately cleanse the area with soap and water and seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
For additional information pertaining to rabies awareness and other public health threats, please contact the Bucks County Health Department at 215-345-3318, or visit the department's rabies information page on the official county Web site, www.BucksCounty.org.