Protecting your family against rabies

skunk rabiesRabies reports have been in the news lately. Tucson has had at least one confirmed case and one suspected case in the last month alone. Additionally, the recent death from rabies of a 6-year old Florida boy is a warning call for us all. Rabies is something as parents with curious and inquisitive children we need to be aware of. We connected with Tim Bohan, nurse practitioner in the TMC pediatric emergency department for a few words of advice to parents and caregivers regarding rabies.

This information is meant as a guide, but should not be used in place of medical advice from your health care provider.

Advice to parents and caregivers regarding rabies:

Thanks to widespread canine rabies vaccination, the disease has become a very rare disease in the United States, but awful situations such as the Florida incident still do happen.

Primarily, the risk is mainly from wild animals, especially bats such as in the Florida case, but raccoons, skunks, foxes, javelinas and coyotes are also sources. We just had a case of a rabid skunk found dead at Jesse Owens Park last month, and this week a suspected rabid gray fox bit a woman in Vail near Rancho del Lago. In total there were 77 cases of rabies identified in animals in 2017 just in Pima County.

What can I do to lower the risk of my child being exposed

  1. Teach your child to never handle wild or unfamiliar domestic animals even if they seem friendly.
  2. Vaccinate your dogs, cats AND ferrets against rabies AND keep up to date with vaccinations.
  3. Bat-proof your home and have those unwelcome lodgers evicted if they’ve already taken residence. Pima Animal Care Center has more information about bat-proofing

My child has been bitten or scratched by a bat/dog/feral cat/ferret/fill in the blank. What should I do?

  1. First thoroughly flush the wound with water and wash it with soap and water.
  2. Call Pima Animal Care Center for help if this animal can be captured, but do not attempt to capture a possibly rabid animal without the proper equipment and training.
  3. Call your pediatrician. Any bite by a wild animal should be considered a risk for rabies until proven otherwise. Exceptions: rabbits, hares, squirrels, rats, mice and other small rodents. Even if your domestic cat or dog has been immunized, if they bite your child they need to be watched for 10 days to make sure that they don’t develop symptoms.

What will the pediatrician do if there is suspicion the bite was from a rabid animal?

We examine the skin. If we think there is a high chance your child has been scratched or bitten by an animal with rabies, we must immediately immunize your child against rabies. The immunization is injected into the skin around the bite. Your child will also receive the rabies vaccination.

Even if we don’t suspect rabies we will often start oral antibiotics to ward off against infection from the bacteria in cat and dog saliva that can cause cellulitis.

My child is terrified of shots. Can we just wait and see?

No. Seek medical attention immediately, and have a professional assess the risk. Once the infection develops there is no sure treatment. Treating at the time of the bite is critical, if not rabies is almost always fatal.

We have bats in our house should I be worried?

Please have the bats removed and bat-proof your home. If the bats have been found in the areas where your child sleeps or plays, whether your child has been bitten or scratched or not – immediately report it to your regular pediatrician.

Tim Bohan NPTim Bohan
Nurse Practitioner
TMC Pediatric Emergency Department

 

Leave a Reply


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
%d bloggers like this: