Avoid Rabies by Observing and Enjoying Wildlife at a Distance

For Immediate Release

Date: July 29, 2004

Contact: Dr. Bob Johnson
State Public Health Veterinarian
Vermont Department of Health
1-800-640-4374, 802 863-7240

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health is reminding the public to enjoy wildlife at a safe distance, after a woodchuck in Bennington County tested positive for rabies in July.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease found mainly in wildlife (especially raccoons, foxes, skunks and woodchucks), but can infect domestic animals and humans. Exposure to rabies occurs when saliva from an infected animal gets into a fresh, open scratch or on to a mucous membrane, such as the mouth or eyes, or if a person is scratched by the animal.

Bats should be appreciated only at a distance also. Bats are increasingly implicated in human rabies cases. A bat found in a room with a sleeping individual or an unattended child, or a bat that has made physical contact with an individual should be tested for rabies.

Hundreds of cases of animal rabies have been reported throughout Vermont since 1992, and the disease outbreak will continue to be a problem for many years.

The Vermont Department of Health assists in the statewide prevention of rabies in humans, and the management of animals that may have come in contact with humans. The Department of Health assesses human and animal rabies exposure, coordinates rabies specimen testing and provides vaccination guidelines.

In order to track the rabies outbreak, the Department of Health is interested in testing strange acting raccoons. If you see an animal acting strangely, or want more information, please call the Vermont Rabies Hotline/USDA, Wildlife Services at 1-800-4-RABIES or 802-223-8690.