SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) - Illinois state health officials are helping to spread the word about rabies prevention.
September 28 is World Rabies Day. The theme is, "Rabies: Understand it to defeat it."
"Rabies can be prevented through increased awareness and education about the disease, as well as pet vaccinations," Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. "We want to make sure people understand how rabies is transmitted, how to prevent exposures and what to do if bitten or scratched by a rabid animal."
According to health officials, bats are the primary carrier of rabies in Illinois and already this year, 41 bats have tested positive for rabies in 17 counties. In 2012, 63 bats tested positive for rabies in Illinois.
"Children should be warned against petting or trying to assist a wild or unfamiliar animal," said Connie Austin, state public health veterinarian. "While our natural instinct may be to help or befriend bats or other animals that appear friendly or are injured, these animals can carry rabies and should be avoided."
The following tips from IDPH can help prevent the spread of rabies:
· Be a responsible pet owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets. This requirement is important to not only keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection for you if your animal is bitten by a rabid animal.
· Keep pets under direct supervision so they are not exposed to wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat, seek veterinary assistance for your pet immediately.
· Call the local health department or animal control agency to remove stray animals in your neighborhood.
· Avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals. Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
· Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
· Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. "Love your own, leave other animals alone" is a good principle for children to learn.
· Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might encounter people or pets.