For those of you living in Massachusetts, I wanted to send out a short bulletin on a recent Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH) alert. ¬†There has been a recent case of rabies diagnosed in a Massachusetts resident, who is currently in critical condition. ¬†As stated in the MADPH alert, “This case is a reminder that although the risk of rabies is low, the disease still exists in Massachusetts….may prompt individuals to contact healthcare providers with concerns about possible rabies exposures.”
Rabies, a virus transmitted in the saliva of infected animals, affects the nervous system. Without rapid and appropriate treatment (an extensive vaccination series BEFORE symptoms begin) it invariably leads to to coma and death. ¬†Animals that are the most likely carriers in the US are bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and unvaccinated dogs. ¬†As noted in the announcement, bats are especially dangerous as their bite can be so small that someone may not have realized that they were bitten at all. ¬†As a result, a person should be evaluated for risk if they wake up to find a bat in the room while they were sleeping, if a bat is found in the room of a child, mentally disabled, or intoxicated person.
If you or someone you love has been bitten by one of the above animals, if at all possible, the animal should be captured so that it can be tested for rabies. ¬†You should seek care from a medical professional who will evaluate your risk, contact public health authorities is necessary, and help decide if you need to have treatment, which consists of a series of vaccines and rabies antibodies.