Animal bites/injuries are reportable by law. Each local public health department has communicable disease staff assigned to follow-up with the individual who was injured. The purpose of this investigation is to assess for rabies. Rabies is a fatal disease that is also a reportable communicable disease.
During an investigation, our staff work with the injured, the owner of the animal and local veterinarians. If the owner is unknown, or the animal bite is from a wild animal the investigation often involves animal control officers and law enforcement.
During these investigations if immunization of the animal can be documented then the owner is asked to confine and monitor the animal for 10 days to observe for illness such as rabies. If the animal is a stray it may be monitored or put down depending upon circumstances of the injury. Animals that are put down, will have their brain tissue sent to the State Lab for rabies testing. The health center works with animal control and local law enforcement to help decide the best course of action. Having an animal put down is the last course of action when we have no other options.
If the animal does not have immunizations and cannot be quarantined at the local vet or cannot be captured then the victim of the animal bite or injury is strongly encouraged to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) therapy, otherwise known as rabies shots. They are very expensive and can cost anywhere from $5,000-$12,000 per series. Our communicable disease nurses work hard to help prevent and protect the community, and to keep beloved pets with their owners.