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Follow These Rabies Rules for Safety

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McGuill says rabies may rise and fall among animal populations -- in great part, because animals die from it -- but at this point it remains a problem. "There's no indication it's going away."

That said, DeMaria has some recommendations to avoid an exposure: First, avoid any animal you don't know -- especially one which is behaving unusually. That could mean an overly aggressive creature, but also one that is too docile. A raccoon or fox shouldn't be seeking human contact -- they're normally afraid.

"Second, reduce the environment and habitat for potentially rabid animals by reducing food and nesting sources," DeMaria says. "Third, immunize your pets -- cats and dogs."

And if you are bitten, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water -- this is an important step, since the virus may be broken down by soap. And always see a doctor.

Vital Information:

  • Since 1990, only 22 people have died from rabies, usually as the result of an unnoticed bite from a bat.
  • A person contracts rabies by coming into contact with the saliva or brain tissue of a rabid animal, but can prevent the disease with a series of seven shots over a month's time following exposure.
  • If you are bitten by an animal, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water, then see a physician.
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