"All residents should take safety measures," district officials stated in a press release Wednesday.
In Connecticut, rabies is usually carried by skunks, raccoons, and bats but any mammal could carry the disease.
The health department — which covers Branford, as well as East Haven and North Branford — reminded residents to protect themselves and their pets from contact with these wild animals.
Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is present in the saliva and nervous tissue of an infected animal.
Rabies is most often seen among wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.
Cats, dogs and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated or not up–to–date on their rabies vaccinations. Deer and large rodents, such as woodchucks, also can get rabies.
The health district passed along some simple precautions residents can take:
- Enjoy wildlife from a distance. Don't feed, touch or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats. If you see an animal that is sick, injured or orphaned, call an animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator. Do not handle the animal yourself.
- Be sure your pet dogs, cats and ferrets as well as horses and valuable livestock animals are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Vaccination protects pets if they are exposed to rabid animals. Pets too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct observation.
- Keep family pets indoors at night. Don't leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
- Don't attract wild animals to your home or yard. Keep your property free of stored bird seed or other foods that may attract wild animals. Feed pets indoors. Tightly cap or put away garbage cans. Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch or garage. Cap your chimney with screens.
- If nuisance wild animals are living in parts of your home, consult with a nuisance wildlife control expert about having them removed. You can find wildlife control experts, who work on a fee-for-service basis, in your telephone directory under pest control.
- Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
- If a wild animal is on your property, let it wander away. Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside. You may contact a nuisance wildlife control expert who will remove the animal for a fee.
- Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to your local health department. If possible, do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies.
Fortunately, rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt treatment.
In the United States, the number of rabies-related human deaths is 1 or 2 per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
When a rabid animal bites, medical care is required before symptoms develop to prevent rabies.
This includes a thorough cleaning of the wound, followed by a series of injections. The shots consist of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period, beginning as soon as possible after exposure.
Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a tetanus vaccine. While humans can get treatment pets and domestic animals cannot.
To learn more about rabies in both humans and animals, contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1-800- CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636), or visit www.cdc.gov/rabies.
For further information about this or other public health concerns, contact the East Shore District Health Department, serving the towns of Branford, North Branford, and East Haven at (203)-481-4233 or by visiting our website at www.ESDHD.org.