Rabies is not a common or frequent problem in Northwest Arkansas. There have been 13 cases in the state so far this year, but none in Washington or Benton Counties. So you shouldn’t worry — but it’s still good to be aware of the condition and to take sensible precautions.
The most important action you should take is to follow the Health Department’s requirements for your pet animals. Dogs and cats must be vaccinated against the disease at four months.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease. It is usually spread through the bites of infected animals. Animals with this infection are called “rabid.” Rabid animals are more likely to bite people; the disease attacks their central nervous systems and makes them aggressive.
At first, rabies can feel like the flu. However, it can lead to confusion, paralysis, and inflammation of the brain which is usually fatal.
How do people get it?
Rabies is rare in the United States. Worldwide, it is most often caused by dog bites. However, in Arkansas, the most recent cases have been caused by skunks. Bats can also carry the disease, and rabies-positive bats have been found in Northwest Arkansas.
Vaccinating your pets is the most important step you can take to keep rabies rare. You should also avoid touching or playing with wild animals. Children should be taught not to interact with wild animals.
Most wild animals are naturally shy about humans. A woodland creature who doesn’t run away from humans may be reacting to the disease.
There is no specific treatment for rabies. Once the symptoms are established, the disease is usually fatal.
However, there is a vaccine. If you receive the vaccine soon after exposure, before you develop symptoms, it can protect you.
If you are bitten by a wild animal or by a domestic animal with symptoms of rabies, you should see your primary care provider immediately or call 911.