Local experts give tips on caring for animal bites
With two confirmed cases of rabies in Clay County, everyone should be aware of how to avoid the deadly disease. The two cases involved foxes on opposite ends of the county; however, any mammal may contract rabies. Then it is spread by bites, scratches or licks from those infected.
Janice Patterson, Director of the Clay County Health Department, gave this advice if someone is bitten. “The individual needs to secure care for the wound,” Patterson said. “If possible, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
Depending on the severity of the bite, the situation may be more of an urgency rather than emergency nature. If the wound needs stitches or emergency care, the individual needs to go to the emergency room.
If the individual is seriously injured from the animal bite, call 911 to transport to the hospital.” Puncture-type wounds may be handled by the person’s doctor or urgent care.
“Individuals with animal bites often need antibiotics to prevent infections, tetanus booster and assessment for rabies post-exposure vaccinations,” Patterson reminded. “This will all be done in conjunction with the Clay County Health Department. Animal bites are required by law to be reported to the health department.”
Director of Clay County E-911 Director Dena Jenkins agreed the decision to call 911 will vary by the severity of the bite. “The seriousness of the bite is based from person to person and what their need is,” she said. It will usually be sufficient to report the animal problem by calling non-emergency dispatch at 389-2256.
Tanya Long, nursing supervisor at the health department said, “There are many factors in determining what to do including the type of animal that bit the person, vaccination status of the animal unless it is a wild animal and the ability to quarantine the animal if appropriate. Similar steps apply if it is an animal that had been injured by another animal.”
“Part of the protocol is to send our animal control officer out to the scene or to make contact via phone to see if he can obtain the name and location of the owner of the animal,” Jenkins explained. “He then will go to the residence and attempt to make direct contact to gather information about the animal such as last shots given and if that included a rabies shot. He also will make contact with the health department to report there has been a bite.
The animal control officer also advises the animal owner that the animal needs to be quarantined for the next 10 days away from persons and other animals.” Stray animals are taken by the animal control officer to the Valley River Humane Society where they are quarantined to observe signs of rabies. For wild animal situations, Jenkins said the sheriff’s animal control officer works with wildlife officers.
Patterson said, “You will be asked questions about the specifics about what was happening when you were bitten. It is important to know if the bite was provoked or non-provoked.” The health director will determine if the animal should be quarantined at the residence or another location, which will be at the owner’s expense.