Be aware of rabies threat, Portage County Health Department warns

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Warmer weather brings people and animals into closer outdoor contact and the Portage County Health Department reminds residents of the ever-present threat of rabies.

People should protect themselves by keeping contact with wild animals to a minimum and their pets by getting them a rabies vaccination.

Rabies is a fatal viral zoonosis and a serious public health threat. All mammals, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, are believed susceptible to the disease. Rabies is transmitted when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in skin, or onto mucous membranes from saliva, according to the health department.

The health department says residents can protect themselves from the threat of rabies by following these precautions:

Do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals and be cautious around stray cats and dogs.

Teach children to leave wildlife alone and be sure that your child knows to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.

Have your pet cats, dogs, and ferrets vaccinated for rabies and keep their vaccinations current.

Keep trash can lids secure. Open containers can attract wildlife.

Feed pets indoors. Never leave food outdoors that can attract wildlife.

Report any bite incidents to your local health department and call your doctor for medical advice.

"Do not touch, handle or play with wildlife. Minimize attracting wildlife onto your property by keeping all pet food containers inside and closed," said Loyd Groves, Portage County Health Department Environmental Director.

"It is equally important to make sure that your pets are vaccinated for rabies initially after they have reached the age of 3 months and then revaccinated one year later and thereafter at not more than 36 month intervals." Groves said.

To report a bite incident or possible rabies exposure, contact Judi Rettig at 330-296-9919, ext. 101.

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