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Wild animal bites prompt rabies shots

Incidents ranged from bat bites to cat and raccoon bites

August 16, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

Ten Washington County residents have started rabies shots because they were bitten over the weekend by wild animals.

Rod MacRae, spokesman for the Washington County Health Department, said the incidents ranged from bat bites in the North End of Hagerstown to cat and raccoon bites in other parts of the county.

"It's an ongoing problem," MacRae said. "We need to realize that rabies is well-established here."

The people who were bitten will receive an initial treatment and about five shots in the arm over the course of a month, MacRae said. He added that the old technique of giving patients 21 shots in the stomach is no longer practiced.

MacRae said bat activity in the North End of Hagerstown is common around this time of year because the old buildings with high roofs and cracks leading to attics offer ideal places for bats to roost.

He said a few of the bats that bit people were tested for rabies, but none of the results came back positive.

"It's advisable to get treated if they're bitten and don't have a bat to test for rabies," MacRae said.

He said it's better to get the shots to be on the safe side because rabies is almost always fatal.

MacRae said the safest way to prevent rabies is to stay away from wild animals.

The last human case of rabies in Maryland occurred in 1976, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's website.

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To learn more about rabies and how to prevent it, go to http://ideha.dhmh.maryland.gov/czvbd/rabies.aspx.

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