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(207) 846-6515

INFECTIOUS DISEASE: RABIES

Rabies is endemic - persistently present at a low level - in Maine. The Maine Rabies Workgroup publishes an authoritative compendium on rabies that can be found at maine.gov:

http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/zoonotic/rabies/documents/maine-rabies-management-guide.pdf

The articles in this section of the YVCipedia include excerpts from the Maine Rabies Compendium.

AFTER POTENTIAL RABIES EXPOSURE

Dog and cat bites are common injuries to people. When a bite occurs there is often concern about potential exposure to rabies. Most dogs and cats in Maine are vaccinated for rabies, but rabies is persistently present in our animal population at a low level so the concern is justified.

RABIES TRANSMISSION   If a dog or cat is exposed to rabies the virus travels from the site of exposure (for example, a puncture wound) along the dog or cat's nerves to the brain and then to the salivary glands. The infected animal is then capable of infecting another animal or person by transmitting the rabies virus in it's saliva by a bite. By the time of this bite the biter's disease will also be advanced enough that it will show obvious signs of illness within 10 days or less. 

10 DAY OBSERVATION OF THE BITER   The biting dog or cat must be quarantined and observed for 10 days. If it is infected with rabies virus and the disease is advanced to the point where the biter is capable of infecting another animal, then the biter will become obviously ill in 10 days or less. The relevant public health authority is notified about the bite.

If the dog or cat appears normal 10 days after biting then it was not shedding rabies virus at the time of the bite, and the bite victim was not exposed.

If signs suggestive of rabies develop during the 10 day quarantine the dog or cat should be euthanized and tested for rabies (rabies testing is not possible without euthanasia). 

This observation period is required regardless of whether or not the biter has been properly vaccinated for rabies. Rabies vaccines are extremely effective, but not 100% effective. Thus, any bite victim has the potential for rabies exposure, although this risk is presumably very low when the biter is properly vaccinated. 

Dogs and cats should not be euthanized during the 10 day observation period. If medical or human/animal welfare reasons dictate that this must be done, then the biter should be tested for rabies. 

A PROPERLY VACCINATED DOG OR CAT   is bitten by a potentially rabid animal it should receive an immediate rabies vaccine booster and be observed (not quarantined) for signs of illness for 45 days.

IF AN UNVACCINATED DOG OR CAT   is bitten by a potentially rabid animal it must be quarantined for 6 months or euthanized. 

IF A PERSON IS BITTEN   by a potentially rabid animal postexposure treatment is usually delayed until the 10 day observation period of the biting animal is complete. Two possible exceptions are: 1) massive salivary exposure from a severe bite and 2) bites to the head and neck (the rabies virus has less distance to travel to the brain). 

Potential rabies exposure is an urgent medical problem but not typically an emergency; there is usually enough time to safely obtain the desired information from the 10 day observation and quarantine rather than immediatly starting postexposure treatment.

Many people who work with animals have been vaccinated for rabies. If the biting animal tests positive for rabies these vaccinated people must still undergo postexposure treatment. 

MAINE RABIES CONTACT INFORMATION

The following is contact information for 24/7 disease reporting and consultation: 
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC)
Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program 
286 Water Street, 8th Floor, State House Station 11, Augusta, Maine 04333 
Telephone (24/7): 1-800-821-5821
TTY: 207-287-8016
Fax: 207-287-6865 

ANIMALS THAT EXPOSE OTHER ANIMALS OR PEOPLE TO RABIES

Management of animals that potentially expose humans and/or domestic animals to rabies:

Type of animal Action Taken
High risk wildlife:bat, fox, raccoon, skunk, woodchuck, wildlife hybrid, coyote Submit the head for HETL testing (exception: can submit entire bat)
Other wild mammals (exotics, deer, etc) Call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821 for guidance
Owned dogs, cats and ferrets that appear healthy Confine and observe for 10 days regardless of vaccination status
Domestic livestock (horse, sheep, goat, cattle, swine etc) that appear healthy Call Maine CDC for guidance
Domestic animal with signs suggestive of rabies Submit the head to HETL for rabies testing
Small rodents or rabbits Neither testing nor confinement needed unless special circumstances; call Maine CDC for guidance
Stray dogs, cats and ferrets Submit the animal head to HETL for rabies testing, or confine and observe for 10 days if town / facility is willing
 

ANIMALS EXPOSED TO RABIES

Management of dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock exposed to rabies:

Exposure category Vaccinated Non-vaccinated

Direct contact or visible bite from known rabid animal or

Direct contact or visible bite from suspect rabid animal that is unavailable for testing or

Wound of unknown origin

1. Booster immediately

2. Contact Animal Control Officer

3. Observe for 45 days

1. EUTHANIZE 

2. If owner unwilling to euthanize:

  a. notify ACO

  b. isolate for 6         months

  c.  vaccinate on entry into isolation or 28 days later

Exposure by proximity (seen in or near a known or suspect rabid animal) - no contact or wounds

1.  Consider booster

2.  Observe for 45 days

1.  Vaccinate at once

2.  Observe for 6 mont

QUARANTINE FOR RABIES OBSERVATION

Maine Conditions of Confinement/Isolation:

The following is a list of conditions that must be met during both the 10-day confinement and 
observation period (for a domestic animal that exposes a human or other domestic animal) and 
the 6-month isolation period (for a domestic animal that is not up-to-date on rabies vaccine and 
that itself was exposed by a suspect rabid animal). 


The dog, cat, or ferret: 


1. Must be kept on the owner’s premises in an escape-proof building or enclosure (house, 
garage, etc.) at the responsibility of an adult owner/keeper under the supervision of the 
local ACO, or in an animal shelter or veterinary clinic (ACO must be notified); 


2. May not be allowed to run at large or left outside unsupervised where it may come into 
contact with other animals, as in a fenced yard or on a chain; 


3. Should not be permitted to have contact with other animals or people; 


4. If confined and observed at home, cannot be off the owner’s property unless being 
taken to a veterinary hospital for examination or euthanasia under the control of an 
adult and on a leash or in a carrier. 


5. If the animal shows any changes in health or behavior, it must be examined by a 
veterinarian, who will determine if rabies testing is indicated. 


6. If the animal escapes, notify the local ACO immediately. 


7. Should not be sold, given away, euthanized or otherwise disposed of during the 
confinement or isolation period without prior permission from the ACO. 


8. Should be visually inspected by the ACO at the end of the 10-day confinement period, 
or must be examined by a veterinarian at the end of the 6-month isolation period. 


The duration and conditions of these periods, as stated on the official notices (Appendix C), 
start the day of exposure. See the Rules Governing Rabies Management for more information 
about the conditions of confinement and isolation. Veterinarians or animal owners with 
questions on how to properly manage pets exposed to a skunk, bat, or a suspiciously acting 
carnivore that is unavailable for rabies testing should contact Maine CDC.

PET VACCINATION FOR RABIES

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