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Home State of the Cities Preventing rabies: Keep wild animal contact visual only

Preventing rabies: Keep wild animal contact visual only

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Rabies

We know how to appreciate the great outdoors in Minnesota – even in the Twin Cities greenspace abounds and their are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, or just an evening stroll beneath overhanging trees with rivers and lakes running alongside. We do, however, have to share this space with the animals that call it home. Our interactions with wildlife are generally positive, but it’s important to keep in mind that these encounters do pose a risk to humans.

A bat was found on Friday, August 10 on the walking pathways at Lake Harriet Park in Minneapolis. This bat has tested positive for rabies and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) would like to talk with anyone who may have touched or had physical contact with the bat about whether they need rabies shots.

The bat was seen between the Lake Harriet Band Shell and the Lyndale Park Rose Garden between 9:30 and 10:30am A passerby properly collected and brought the bat to a local wildlife rehabilitation facility, where it died on Aug. 12. The bat tested positive for rabies on Aug. 14.

Those who may have had physical contact with the bat should contact MDH at 651-201-5414 or 1-877-676-5414 to determine if rabies shots are necessary.

Dr. Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian had this to say about bats in particular, “If someone has been bitten or exposed to a bat, it is very important to test the bat for rabies. If this is not possible, rabies prevention shots should be given as soon as possible.”

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH) also reminds pet owners of the importance of ensuring that dogs and cats are current on their rabies vaccinations.

The senior veterinarian in charge of the BAH boards rabies program, Dr. Courtney Wheeler drove home the importance of pet rabies vaccinations, “Concerned pet owners who were in the area of Lake Harriet when this bat was found should contact their veterinarian. This situation highlights the importance of ensuring pets are vaccinated against rabies.” (MDH press release).

Rabies virus information

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that affects the central nervous system causing encephalopathy leading to death. The virus is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. There are two forms of rabies:

  1. Dumb rabies, in which an animal acts sick, does not eat and is lethargic.
  2. Furious rabies, in which an animal shows aggressive and vicious behavior.

Over the past 100 years, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of human rabies cases, due to the availability of a vaccine and vigilant surveillance by public health officials. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health investigates rabies cases and may quarantine exposed animals to prevent the spread of the virus. The Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine offers this Rabies Vaccination Guidance Document for veterinarians and the public.

Courtesy of MN Board of Animal Health

Wild animals make up the majority of Minnesota’s annually reported rabies cases. Species of highest concern include skunks and bats, which are carriers for the virus. Less than 15% of rabid animal cases reported annually in Minnesota occur in domestic species; the most common being cattle, cats and dogs.

To report suspect rabies cases or ask questions about this disease in domestic animals, please contact the board at 651-201-6808. For more information, visit the BAH website.

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