Take Precautions against Rabies

Take Precautions against Rabies

Animal Shelter offers advice to reduce the risk.

Rabies is a deadly virus that infects animals and may be a risk to humans, as well. The most commonly reported rabid animals in Fairfax County include foxes, raccoons, skunks, and bats. But even pets aren’t automatically immune to this disease and must be vaccinated against it.

A Springfield woman was vaccinated against rabies after being bit Aug. 4 by an indoor/outdoor cat in her care. The cat was euthanized and tested for rabies as a precaution following the bite, and the rabies test came back positive. Health department officials evaluated the woman for rabies exposure and recommended that she receive rabies vaccine to prevent rabies.

On July 30, the infected cat’s 10 kittens were signed over to animal control officers, prior to any signs that the cat was ill. Seven of these kittens were adopted from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter between July 31 and Aug. 6. The remaining three cats were not adopted and were removed from the shelter as soon as the mother cat tested positive for rabies. None of the kittens have exhibited any signs of illness.

The adopters of the seven kittens who were potentially exposed to rabies are being contacted and advised of precautionary measures. The infected cat, a grey, female tabby, lived on Laurel Oak Court in the Saratoga neighborhood of the Mount Vernon District. While there is minimal public health or safety threat, anyone concerned that they or someone they know may have been bitten or scratched by this cat should contact animal control at 703-691-2131.

The Animal Shelter reminds residents to make sure their dogs and cats, as well as outdoor cats in their care, have up-to-date rabies vaccinations. To read more about protecting pets against the rabies virus or to find out about Fairfax County’s reduced-cost rabies clinics, visit: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police/animal/rabies.htm.

Reduce Rabies Exposure Risk

Vaccinate your pets against rabies and keep inoculations current.

State law and county ordinance require dogs and cats four months of age and older to be inoculated.

Vaccine must be administered every one to three years, depending on the type used and the age of the animal.

The Animal Services Division holds low-cost rabies clinics for dogs and cats throughout the year. For more information on this, call the Animal Shelter at 703-830-1100.

Warn children to keep away from wildlife and encourage them to report any physical contact with animals.

Minimize contact between pets and wildlife, especially at night. Walk pets on a leash. Feed cats and dogs inside.

Eliminate possible sources of food for wildlife from your yard and keep trash can lids tightly closed.

Do not keep wild animals as pets. Even baby skunks and raccoons can carry the rabies virus.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the spinal cord and brain in warm-blooded animals, including humans. Animals with rabies can survive for up to six months in an infected state and may or may not show any symptoms.

How is rabies spread?

The rabies virus is spread through the infected animal’s saliva and can be transmitted through any open wound, nose or mouth.

What to do if a child or adult comes in contact with an animal that may be infected?

If bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal or a pet that was seen acting strangely, wash the wound immediately and thoroughly with soap and water. Soak the affected area for 10 minutes. Apply antiseptic. Seek medical attention and report the incident to the Animal Services Division of the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131 and the Health Department at 703-246-2433.

What to do if a pet is bitten by an animal species known to carry rabies

Report it to the Animal Services Division of the Fairfax County Police Department, 703-691-2131

What will happen if a pet is exposed to rabies?

There is no cure for rabies. Rabies vaccinations are the most important protection you can give your pet against the deadly disease.

A pet, when bitten by a rabid animal, may develop symptoms within two to 24 weeks, but the usual period is within three to eight weeks. A pet infected with the rabies virus may show behavioral changes such as increased anxiety, depression, irritability, increased affection or may not show any symptoms at all. Once clinical signs, or overt symptoms, appear, the animal will die within a week.

If you have additional questions or concerns, contact the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-2433.

What to do if a wild animal, or any animal for which the owner is unknown, acting strangely?

Be wary and keep your distance from it. Report strange animal behavior or animal attacks to the Animal Services Division of the Fairfax County Police Department, 703-691-2131.

How to minimize contact between my pets and wild animals?

Take precautions. Have all pets sleep indoors. Walk your pet on a leash. Feed cats and dogs inside.

Reduced-Cost Rabies Clinics

Sept. 21, from noon-2 p.m., at the Mason District Government Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale.

Oct. 19, from 2-4 p.m., at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, 4500 West Ox Road in Fairfax.

Nov. 16, from noon-2 p.m., at the Mount Vernon RECenter, 2017 Belle View Road in Alexandria.

Cost is $12/pet, cash or check only. Note: Only dogs and cats are eligible for vaccinations.

Dogs must be on leashes.

Cats must be in carriers.

All pets will receive a 1-year rabies vaccine. To obtain a 3-year vaccine, bring your pet's rabies certificate showing your dog's current rabies vaccination and expiration date. Only those able to show proof will be eligible for the 3-year vaccination for their pet.

Only rabies certificates will be issued (no tags).

2013 dog licenses will be sold at each clinic at an additional cost of $10.