Animal Bites & Concerns
Rabies in Snohomish County
In Washington, bats are the only animal known to carry rabies. Most bats are harmless, but approximately 1% of bats in the wild are infected with the rabies virus. The possibility of rabies in other domestic or wild animals is very unlikely in Washington, though it's important to vaccinate your pets. In other parts of the country, raccoons, skunks, and foxes are also known to have rabies. In developing countries worldwide, dogs are the principal animal in which rabies is found.
Rabies is almost always deadly once the virus attacks your body, but you can receive preventive treatment if you've been bitten or scratched by a bat or other potentially rabid animal.
While we have had no cases of rabies in Snohomish County, each year we talk to and ensure treatment for a number of people exposed to rabies in Snohomish County or elsewhere.
Points to remember when you encounter a bat:
- Do not release or trash the bat if someone has come into contact with the bat or may have been exposed while asleep
- Call SHD first to determine the extent of the exposure and next steps. Do not bring the bat to SHD until you have spoken to a public health official
- Do not touch the bat with bare hands
- When handling the bat use thick leather gloves, place it in a hard container and then keep refrigerated until you speak to a public health official. If the bat is alive do not refrigerate.
Reporting animal bites
If you have been bitten by an animal in a foreign country or have come into contact with a bat — including a bite, scratch, or sleep exposure — you should contact the Snohomish Health District Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response program at 425.339.5278, 8 a.m.-5 p.m Monday - Friday, or go to your local Emergency Department. The Snohomish Health District will determine if you need rabies shots - postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) - to prevent rabies.
When not to report bites
You should not report animal bites or scratches when the risk for rabies is exceptionally low, which include bites from:
- Dogs, cats, or ferrets if the animal appears healthy
- Rodents, opossums, and rabbits
Preventing diseases transmitted by animals
Pets, petting zoos, and animals at local fairs all provide great experiences — but they can also be a significant source of disease, allergies, and injury. At least 30 diseases can be transmitted to humans from animals, often from the animal's feces. See Health Risks from Animals (PDF).
Ways to prevent the spread of disease from animals to you or your children include:
- Washing your hands after handling animals or their food and after cleaning up their waste
- Keeping your pet or animals in good health and up to date on shots
- Providing a space outside of children’s play areas for animals to relieve themselves, including keeping litter boxes in an area not accessible to children
- Keeping animal cages clean and free of waste
- Separating live animals and birds from areas used for food preparation, storage, or eating
- Storing animal food supplies out of reach of children
- Supervise any contact children have with animals, and ensure proper hand washing. Click here for a poster - Animals and Your Child's Health (PDF).
- Take special precautions at petting zoos. See our Petting Zoos (PDF) brochure.
Common illnesses that can be spread by animals include:
- E. coli