Staff in Hamilton County Public Health’s Environmental Health Division receive and track information concerning biting mammals and work with the Cincinnati Area Veterinarian Association to establish rabies policies such as the quarantine vet-release program. Mammal bites should be reported immediately to the Health District by calling the Environmental Health Information Line at (513) 946-7800. Callers may leave a message for Health District staff and can expect a reply within one business day.
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Rabies is an infectious, viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. There is no treatment for rabies after symptoms of the disease appear. Diagnosis of the disease is confirmed when brain tissue is tested after death.
Any mammal – including pets – can get rabies, but people usually get rabies by being bitten by a rabid mammal. The disease is most common in wild mammals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Dogs, cats and cattle are the most frequently reported rabid domestic mammals in the United States. Pets can be infected when bitten by a rabid wild mammal. Small rodents such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and chipmunks rarely get rabies. Bites by these mammals are usually not considered a risk for contracting rabies.
Rabies and You
How can I get rabies?
Typically, people contract rabies when they are bitten by a domestic mammal or pet that has acquired rabies from a rabid wild mammal. Vaccinating dogs and cats prevents them from acquiring the disease from other wildlife, and thereby transmitting the disease to humans. It is also possible, but quite rare, to get rabies if infectious material from a rabid mammal, such as saliva, has contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or wound.
What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to rabies?
If you’ve been bitten by a potentially rabid mammal:
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention. A health care provider will care for the wound and assess the risk for rabies exposure.
- Report the bite to your local health district. In Hamilton County, but outside the cities of Cincinnati, Norwood and Springdale, report the bite to the Hamilton County Public Health’s rabies line at (513) 946-7800.
Note: Any time a person is bitten or scratched by a domestic or wild mammal, the incident must be reported to the local health district, even if the mammal is a family pet and has up-to-date rabies shots.
Rabies and Pets
What happens if a wild mammal bites my dog or cat?
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and report the bite to your veterinarian and the Health District immediately.
- Identify the type of wild mammal involved in the incident. If possible, capture the wild mammal. Don’t destroy the wild mammal. A good tissue sample of the mammal’s brain is necessary to determine if the mammal was rabid.
Protect your pet from rabies:
- Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis.
- Keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for cats and dogs.
- Keep cats & ferrets indoors.
- Keep dogs under direct supervision.
- Spay & neuter your pets.
- Report all stray mammals to mammal control.
If you have additional questions about rabies or if you would like to report an mammal bite, call the Health District’s rabies line at (513) 946-7800.
An effective rabies vaccine regimen is available. This regimen consists of one dose of immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a 28-day period. The vaccines are given in the arm and can be administered after exposure or for protection before exposure occurs. The post-exposure vaccine is recommended for persons who may have been exposed to a rabid mammal, most commonly by an mammal bite. The pre-exposure vaccination is recommended for persons in high-risk professions such as veterinarians, mammal handlers and certain laboratory workers.
Reporting a Bite
The law requires all mammal bites and scratches be reported to the presiding health department/district, even if the injury is from a family pet that has up-to-date rabies shots. Ohio Administrative Code Section 3701-3-28 provides that biting mammals be quarantined for at least 10 days after an mammal bite occurs. Reporting mammal bites saves mammal bite victims from unnecessary post-exposure rabies treatments.
Where to report a mammal bite?
- Report the bite to your local health district. In Hamilton County, but outside the cities of Cincinnati, Norwood and Springdale, report the bite to the Hamilton County General Health District’s Rabies Line at (513) 946-7800.
- Legibly complete a copy of the Health District’s Mammal Bite Report Form. Forms need to be as complete as possible. Please contact the Health District immediately if additional or missing information is acquired after submitting the form. Fax the completed form to Attn: Mammal Bite/ENV at (513) 946-7800.
What happens after a bite is reported?
Once a reported mammal bite is confirmed, the Health District notifies the mammal’s owner of quarantine rules and sends a Mammal Bite Investigation Form. Any mammal involved in a mammal bite incident is required by law to be quarantined for at least 10 days after the mammal bite occurred. Quarantine limits the mammal’s contact with other mammals and people, reducing exposure if the mammal involved does have rabies. The quarantine period also allows veterinarians and health officials to observe the mammal for any signs or symptoms associated with the rabies virus. Note: Invisible fences are not considered an adequate means of quarantine.
Until the mammal is released from quarantine, an owner cannot:
- give the mammal away
- kill the mammal
- relocate the mammal outside of Hamilton County
If the mammal becomes aggressive, attacks, loses muscular control, exhibits unusual salivation or dies during the quarantine period, contact the Health District and your veterinarian immediately. If the mammal must be taken to SPCA, notify the SPCA that the mammal is under quarantine by order of the Hamilton County Board of Health.
Only a licensed veterinarian can release the mammal after the 10-day quarantine period has expired. A veterinarian must examine the mammal, confirm that the mammal has been vaccinated against rabies and sign the Mammal Bite Investigation Form. A signed Mammal Bite Investigation Form must be returned to our office to officially close a mammal bite investigation. The Health District notifies the mammal bite victim as soon as quarantine results are available. Mammal owners and mammal bite victims can always contact the Health District for additional mammal bite/rabies precaution information.
Dog Bites and Children
Most children love dogs, but unfortunately, not all children know how to behave around their four-legged friends. Teach children how to safely interact with dogs, and learn what you should do if you or your child is ever bitten by a dog.
Both national and local statistics show the importance of teaching children how to act when they are around dogs – whether it’s the family pet, the friendly neighborhood mutt or a stray.
- According the U.S. Humane Society, about 4.7 million Americans are bitten by a dog every year, about 60 percent of which involve children.
- In Hamilton County from 2000-2005, almost 3,000 dog bites were reported, nearly half of which occurred in children ages 0-19 years old.
It is important to realize that every dog has the potential to bite, even the trusted family dog. But, there are things you can do to reduce that risk, such as talking to your kids about animal safety and teaching them what to do if they encounter a strange dog while playing.
Understanding the right behavior to use and understanding a dog’s body language could make all the difference when your child interacts with a dog. A child’s sudden movements could startle a dog and put him on the defensive. Barking, growling, snarling with teeth, flat ears, tail up, stiff legs, and hair standing up on the back are all signs a dog is unsafe. Children should:
- Never approach a strange dog. Do not make eye contact and back away slowly.
- Never tease a dog.
- Never sneak up on a dog that is eating or sleeping. Animals may bite when they are frightened.
- Always ask the owner’s permission before petting a dog. Let the dog sniff your hand, and then gently pet the dog’s back or sides.
- Stay away from dogs that are chained, behind fences or in cars. They may be protective of their territory.
- Never take bones, balls or other toys from a dog. Dogs are possessive.
Stray dogs should be reported to the SPCA of Cincinnati by calling (513) 541-6100. If your child is approached by a strange dog, teach them to do the following:
- If walking, stop and stand still – like a tree – with hands at your sides.
- If playing on the ground, lay still – like a log – with your knees tucked into your stomach and your hands over your ears. If you stay still and quiet, the dog will likely lose interest and walk away.
- Never try to out run a dog. Back away slowly instead.
It is also important for parents to know what to do if their child is bitten by a dog, regardless of whether the bite is from a family pet. If a child is attacked by a dog, you can minimize the risk and severity of the injury by teaching the child what to do during an attack.
- Drop to the ground.
- Curl up in a ball.
- Protect your head and face, cover your ears.
- Try to remember what the dog looked like and where it went.
If you or your child are bitten by a dog, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and contact your family doctor right away. By law, you are also required to report the bite to the local health district. Animal bites can be reported by calling (513) 946-7800. More information is provided above.
Remember, most people are bitten by dogs they know. When choosing a dog for your family, research the breed you are interested in and find out as much as you can about the dog’s parents. Train your dog and try to have a fenced in area where he can play and relax. It is also a good idea to give your dog a space of his own, either inside or outside the house, where your children know they are not allowed to bother him.
Always remember to register your dog with the local licensing agency. In Hamilton County, all dogs must be registered with the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office, (513) 946-4106.
Mammal bites can result in serious injury. Be a responsible pet owner. Follow these rules and keep your pet and others safe and happy.
Safety Rules for Dog Owners:
- Keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times.
- Get to know your dog. Recognize what frightens and angers your pet and how your pet responds.
- Post “Beware of Dog” signs.
- Never leave your dog unattended in public places.
- Keep your pet healthy and up-to-date on shots.
- If your dog is aggressive, use a choke chain and muzzle.
- Never leave a child unattended with a dog.
Remind and encourage others to:
- Never approach an eating or sleeping dog.
- Never approach a dog from behind.
- Never take an object out of a dog’s mouth.
Bats and Rabies
How to tell if a bat is rabid
Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory. However, any bat that is active by day, found in a place where bats are not usually seen (a room in your home or on the lawn), or is unable to fly is more likely to be rabid then others. Therefore, it is best never to handle a bat.
If a bat bites you, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention. People usually know when a bat has bitten them. However, if you’ve been sleeping and find a bat in your room; see a bat in the room of an unattended child; or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person and no obvious bite wound can be identified, capture the bat for rabies testing.
If you think a bat has bitten your pet or other domestic mammal, isolate the mammal and contact a veterinarian and the Health District.
Capturing a bat:
- Isolate the mammal
- Turn room lights on and wait for the bat to land
- Wear gloves and place a coffee can or similar container over the bat
- Slide a piece of cardboard under the container and tape the container closed
- Bring the container to the SCPA so the bat can be shipped for rabies testing
Bat proofing your home:
Most bats hibernate in the fall and winter. This is the best time to “bat proof” your home. To keep bats out of your home and other buildings:
- carefully examine a building for holes that may allow bat entry
- caulk openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch
- install and maintain window screens and chimney caps
- use draft-guards beneath doors to attics
- fill electrical and plumbing holes with steel wool/caulking
- keep doors to the outside tightly closed