News Spotlight: Rabies Still a Concern in Michigan Report animal bites to local health department within 24 hours
Monday, October 14, 2013

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill urged Michiganders to adopt practices that help protect their families, pets, and livestock from rabies, one of the deadliest diseases known to man.  According to the World Health Organization, rabies is responsible for the deaths of 55,000 people worldwide.   

All mammals are susceptible to rabies.  Rabies virus is usually transmitted via the bite of an infected animal.  The virus can also be transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal into an open wound or onto mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.     “Michigan has rabies laws and programs that help protect citizens.  Animal bites are reportable, and the State of Michigan requires dogs and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies,” said Averill. Protect dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, and select livestock by keeping them vaccinated against rabies. 

If a person suspects their pet or livestock may have had contact with a potentially rabid animal, they should immediately contact their local animal control agency and veterinarian.    “You cannot always know if an animal has rabies, but if your pet or livestock behave aggressively and this is not normal behavior, you should consider rabies as a possible cause, and take appropriate precautions,” Averill said. “If a person is bitten by an animal, they should immediately wash the wound, seek medical attention, and report the bite to the local health department."    

Signs of rabies in animals can include lethargy, depression, aggression, seizures, a change in behavior, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, difficulty walking, and eventual death.  Because many illnesses can cause these signs, without the laboratory tests rabies cannot be diagnosed.  It is not possible to test live animals for rabies.  In order to determine if an animal has the disease, a necropsy must be done and the brain tissue must be examined for the presence of characteristic lesions.   

 To date, for 2013, there have been 35 cases of rabid Michigan bats in the following counties:  Berrien (2), Clinton (1), Emmet (1), Genesee (2), Ingham (6), Ionia (1), Jackson (2), Kalamazoo (1), Leelanau (1), Livingston (2), Mackinac (1), Macomb (2), Manistee (1), Mecosta (1), Missaukee (1), Monroe (1), Oakland (2), Ogemaw (1), St Clair (1), Tuscola (1) Washtenaw (3), and Wayne (1).    For more information, please go to


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