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What is it?

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and is virtually always fatal. It is most commonly found in bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons. Unvaccinated pets or livestock can also be infected. Rabies is spread when an animal or human is bitten or scratched by an infected animal, or if an infected animal's saliva comes in contact with broken skin or mucous membranes.

Health Department Response

Prevention and control of rabies is a local health department, law enforcement, medical personnel and veterinarian responsibility in Michigan. Michigan's communicable disease reporting rules require that anyone with knowledge of humans being bitten by a potentially rabid animal must report the incident to the local health department within 24 hours. A potentially rabid animal includes pet or stray dogs, cats, ferrets, and some wild animals like bats, raccoons, fox, skunks, and others. Prompt reporting of animal bites is of high importance as it facilitates early investigation, control and management of both animals and persons potentially exposed to rabies.

What to do if bitten or scratched by an animal

  • Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and water.
  • Capture the animal, if possible, so it can be checked for rabies. Take care to prevent additional bites, or get the pet owner's name, address, and telephone number. Find out if the animal has a current rabies vaccination and write down the rabies tag and license number.
  • If an animal must be killed, do not damage the head. Rabies testing is done on the brain.
  • When dealing with a dead animal, wear gloves or use a shovel to move the animal. Put the animal's body in a heavy duty plastic bag and place in a protected area away from people and other animals. If necessary, a dead animal may be kept overnight on ice or in a refrigerator until it can be picked up for testing. Do not freeze. Clean the area and any tools used to remove the animal with one part bleach to 10 parts water.
  • Do not delay seeking medical advice. Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room.
  • Call your local health department right away.

Rabies information

Additional information can be obtained from the following agencies.

Copyright © 2019 by the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department
818 Pyle Drive, Kingsford, MI 49802 - Phone: 1-906-774-1868
601 Washington Ave, Iron River, MI 49935 - Phone: 1-906-265-9913