Rabies, what you need to know

  • Published
  • By Joseph Bell
  • Public Health Office
Located between the historical towns of Lexington and Bedford and adjacent to the Minuteman National Park, Hanscom is home to wetlands and woodlands that offer a wide variety of wildlife habitat for a number of wildlife species. Being in such close proximity to a national park does offer advantages but it can also raise concerns about interactions with a variety of wild animals. Although animals are cute and furry, it is important that we are aware of the potential threat neighboring wildlife can bring such as rabies. 

The Public Health office offers the following prevention tips and education for the Hanscom community. In Massachusetts, the most common carriers of the rabies disease are foxes, raccoons and skunks. The following steps should be taken in order to protect Hanscom residents and personnel from interaction with wild animals and from the rabies disease: 

· Keep all trash in a sealed container.
· Do not feed any wildlife or make them pets in your home.
· Assure all crawl spaces are closed off.
· Fence in areas around gardens.
· Keep your pet current with the rabies vaccine, contact the Hanscom Veterinarian Clinic for more information at 781-377-3266.
· Rabid animals don't necessarily show any signs or symptoms of the disease - stay clear, do not provoke an encounter or move too close to the animal.
· If you are bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, or by a pet that has been behaving oddly, follow these steps: 

1. Wash the wound with soap and water right away for at least ten minutes. 

2. If the bite or scratch is serious, go to your local emergency room. Contact your local public health office as soon as possible. They will help determine if you need to be treated for rabies. 

3. Contact your local animal control officer to catch or find the animal that scratched or bit you. Your local public health can tell you how to have it tested by the State Rabies Lab, if appropriate. 

4. If your pet has been bitten or scratched by an animal that you think may be rabid, put on gloves before touching your pet. Contact your pet's veterinarian. 

The treatment for people exposed to rabies involves two medications. One, called rabies immune globulin, contains antibodies to fight the virus and is only given once. The other medication is the rabies vaccine, which ensures long-lasting protection, and is given as four shots over the course of 14 days. There is no cure for rabies, therefore in order to reduce the risk of disease medications should begin as soon as possible. 

For more information on rabies please contact the Hanscom Public Health Office at 781-377-1331 or visit the following websites: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/index.htm  or http://www.mass.gov/dph/rabies.