BALTIMORE, MD (August 23, 2012) –The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) is alerting Maryland residents to a possible rabies exposure incident at a Ravens football game.
A bat reportedly landed on a person sitting in the 500 section of M&T Bank Stadium on Friday, August 17 during the 8:00pm game between the Ravens and the Detroit Lions. The bat was brushed off and flew away and testing for rabies was not possible. It is possible that other individuals seated in that area may have also touched the bat. If you touched a bat or had any other contact with a bat while at that game, please call your local health department. Bats are an important part of our environment; however, they can sometimes be infected with rabies. Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that can be transmitted by infectious saliva, usually through a bite.
This incident serves as a reminder to Maryland residents to avoid contact with wild animals. Rabies is most commonly found among wildlife such as raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes, but can be transmitted to domestic animals. In Maryland, more than 200 animals have been diagnosed with rabies to date this year, including 40 bats and one deer.
“People should take special precautions if their pet encounters a wild animal,” says Kim Mitchell, DHMH Chief of Rabies and Vector-borne Diseases. “Anyone who has had contact with a pet or a wild animal that they suspect might have rabies should consult with their health care provider as soon as possible. Rabies is a very serious disease that can be prevented with prompt medical assessment and timely vaccination following exposure.”
When a person is bitten by or exposed to saliva of a rabid animal, the disease is prevented with a four dose rabies vaccine series administered over a period of 14 days and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of the series. Each year, approximately 900 Marylanders receive preventive vaccinations after exposure to a rabid or potentially rabid animal.
Animals with rabies often show changes in behavior. Wild animals may act friendly, domestic animals may become aggressive, and animals that are active only at night may appear during the day. Rabid animals may stagger, drool, or become paralyzed. The diagnosis of rabies is made by examining brain tissue from the suspected rabid animal.
To avoid being exposed to rabies:
- Have your dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock vaccinated against rabies
- Keep your pet under your control at all times, especially when traveling
- Enjoy wildlife from a distance and do not feed wildlife
- Avoid sick animals and any that are acting in an unusual manner
- Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave pet food outside
- Do not relocate wildlife
- Prevent bats from entering your home. If you find a bat in your home, do not touch it. Only let it go if you are sure no people or household pets have had any contact with it. If it is alive, you can catch it by placing a small box, bowl, or can over the bat once it has landed to roost, and then slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container and contact your local health department or animal control agency.
General information about rabies can be found on the Maryland Rabies page: http://ideha.dhmh.md.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/rabies.aspx
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