Rabies Information

Preventing Rabies in Wise County

Due to the risk of rabies infected animals coming into contact with humans in Wise County, all citizens are advised to learn to recognize rabid animal behavior, to protect themselves and to have their pets inoculated against the disease. Humans are susceptible to the disease through animal bites or other contact with a rabid animal's saliva through a break in the skin.

Most Commonly Infected Animals

In general, wildlife most commonly infected with rabies are raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats. Among domestic animals, cats are most likely to contract the disease because of their nocturnal roaming and the fact that more cats than dogs have not received rabies immunization. Dogs and ferrets, however, are also susceptible to rabies.

Indications of Rabies

Rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the spinal cord and brain in warm blooded animals. Animals with rabies can survive for up to six months in an infected state and can endanger other animals. During the infectious stage, the rabies virus is present in the animal's saliva and can be transmitted through any open wound in the skin or in the membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth. Once clinical signs-or overt symptoms-appear the animal will die within a week. 

A pet, when bitten by a rabid animal, may develop symptoms within 2 to 24 weeks, but the usual period is within 3 to 8 weeks. Initially, the pet would show abrupt changes in behavior, such as increased anxiety, depression, irritability or even more displays of affection than usual. In the most common form of rabies, clinical symptoms include convulsions, muscular incoordination, extreme irritability, frenzied behavior and foaming at the mouth. In a less common form, the animal becomes depressed and may hide. Finally, the animal develops paralysis of the jaw, followed by general paralysis and death. Once clinical symptoms appear, there is no cure for rabies.

Precautions to Take

  • Admire nature from a distance. As the County has grown, wildlife habitat has become residential areas. Even healthy wildlife can become aggressive and attack either pets or humans during breeding, nesting and denning seasons.
  • Parents should warn their children of the dangers of approaching wildlife of any kind and should take precautions to protect small children from any contact with wild animals. Make sure they are encouraged to report any potentially infectious contact they may have with animals.
  • Be wary of any domestic or wild animals displaying unusual or suspect behavior. Report animals acting strangely or altercations between animals to the Wise County Department of Animal Control. After hours call the Emergency Dispatch Center at 276-328-3756.
  • If bitten by a wild or stray animal or a pet that is acting strangely, wash the wound immediately and thoroughly with soap and water - preferably soaking the affected area for 10 minutes - and apply antiseptic, seek medical attention and report the incident to Animal Control. After hours call the Emergency Dispatch Center at 276-328-3756.
  • If someone is bitten by a wild animal or any animal for which the owner is unknown, make a reasonable attempt to confine the animal. If confinement is not safely possible, try to watch the animal until the animal warden arrives. Notify Animal Control immediately so the animal can be captured for necessary rabies tests. If after hours, contact the Emergency Dispatch Center at 276-328-3756.
  • Minimize contact between domestic and wild animals. Pet owners can take precautions such as having pets sleep indoors, walking pets on a leash and feeding cats and dogs inside.
  • If a cat, dog or other mammal is bitten by or exposed to a potentially rabid animal, contact the Department of Animal Control, and the Health Department at 276-328-8000, for follow-up and information.
  • Prevent contact with wild or stray animals by keeping trash in closed trash cans and sealing off openings into your house that might provide entry for wildlife, including open areas under decks and houses, chimneys and pet doors. Do not feed stray animals.
  • Don't keep wild animals as pets. Even a baby skunk or raccoon born in captivity can be a rabies carrier.
  • Last but not least, have your pets inoculated against rabies. Both state law and County ordinance require that dogs and cats four months of age and older be inoculated. Inoculation against rabies is not a one-time shot. The vaccine must be administered every one or three years, depending on the vaccine used and the age of the animal. For more information, call the Animal Shelter at 276-679-6750.