Every 10 minutes someone in the United States is treated for possible exposure to rabies, accounting for about 55,000 people each year. About 5,000 animals that have tested positive for rabies each year in the U.S. Seven out of 10 Americans who die from rabies in the U.S. were infected by bats.
Any mammal can be infected with rabies, but in Iowa, rabies is most commonly identified in skunks and bats, accounting for 78% of the animals that have tested positive for rabies over the last 10 years. Cats, cows and dogs are the next most commonly identified rabies-infected animals in Iowa.
Rabies is spread when the virus from an animal’s saliva or neural tissue gets through a person’s skin via bite, contact to wounds, or contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. In addition, people known to be in the same room as a bat, but do not know for certain that they were bitten or had direct contact with the bat, may have been exposed to rabies. This would include persons who awaken to find a bat in the room or children alone with a bat in the room.
Leave all wildlife alone, including injured animals. If you find an injured animal, don’t touch it; contact local authorities for assistance.
Because pets can get rabies from wildlife and then could spread it to humans, preventing rabies in pets is also an important step in preventing human rabies cases.
If Exposure Occurs
If you do come into contact with a rabid animal, rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. If you are bitten, scratched, or unsure, talk to a healthcare provider about whether you need post exposure treatment.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) provides 24/7 rabies consultation and receives about 500 rabies-related calls each year. IDPH can be reached at 800-362-2736 during business hours or 515-323-4360 after hours.