Human cases of rabies are extremely rare in the United States, but they’re fatal, as we’ve unfortunately seen with the case of a man in Massachusetts who died after being infected with the illness by a brown bat.
Although infections are rare — about two per year are reported in the United States — it’s important to remain vigilant and use common sense, preventive measures to protect both you and your pets. The majority of reported cases are traced back to bats, and in order for infection to occur, the bat has to come in physical contact with you or your pet, i.e. biting or scratching.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your pets from rabies? Vaccinate, said Rita Mitchell, principal public health sanitarian of the Clinton County (N.Y.) Health Department’s Environmental Division, in an article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican.
“Vaccinating your pets is probably the No. 1 thing people can do to protect humans from rabies,” Mitchell said.
You can also learn how to bat-proof your home (PDF), and for more information, check out our brochure (PDF) on rabies. And if you or your pet is exposed to rabies — or even have a suspicion that you might have been exposed — seek medical care immediately.