Animal Bites & Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The rabies virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans (typically through a bite) and is fatal once symptoms appear. Human rabies is rare in the United States, but still occurs in many developing countries.

Potential Rabies Exposure in Humans

One of the most effective ways to prevent rabies infection is immediate, thorough cleansing of the animal bite or scratch wounds with liberal amounts of soap and water for 10-15 minutes.

It is important for bite victims to notify their health care provider or Public Health (during off hours, local law enforcement) whenever a bite occurs to ensure that the biting animal is appropriately and legally observed or tested for rabies. 

Veterinarians may report a rabies exposure and obtain fee exempt testing by contacting Public Health.

Prevention Measures

Exposure to rabies may be minimized by the following measures:

  • Eliminate stray dogs and cats and enforce leash laws.
  • Vaccinate pet dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock against rabies.
  • Stay away from all wild animals, especially those acting abnormally.
  • Teach your children not to approach any unfamiliar animals.
  • Do not keep exotic or wild animals as pets, regardless of how young or cute they are.
  • Exclude bats from living quarters by keeping screens in good repair and by closing any small openings that could allow them to enter.
  • Persons traveling to developing countries where rabies is highly prevalent, or persons who are at ongoing risk of possible rabies exposure (e.g., veterinarians, animal control officers), should ask their doctor about receiving the PRE-exposure rabies vaccinations.

Animal Control or Neglect

Animal control in Walworth County is handled by local law enforcement and the Lakeland Animal Shelter (262) 723-1000. Animal abuse or neglect should be reported to Lakeland Animal Shelter.

For more information on rabies, or to use the Rabies Algorithm to determine exposure, visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Website.