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2017 News

Bucks County Health Dept. Reminds Residents of Rabies Protection

June 6, 2017

Bucks County is known for its picturesque landscapes, serene parks and natural habitats. Whether a county park or our own neighborhood, one is never far away from a variety of animals that share our bucolic county. Unfortunately, the sharing of space, while beautiful, comes at a risk. Rabies cases 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 2016 there were 21 reported cases of rabies in Bucks County. During 2015, the Health Department reported 18 cases in the county. In the past 10 years there have been as few as seven (7) cases and as many as 21, 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 bitten or 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 important 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; Remember: FERAL CATS are considered wild animals and should not be handled.
  • 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.