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Health Alerts

The Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Gary Goldbaum sends alerts via email to local health care providers. Alerts cover current local, regional or national health threats and important updates on medical care and protocols. Alerts are written as needed to cover urgent or emergent health issues.

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Animal bites & rabies

Action: Be aware that most animal bites do not pose a risk for rabies, but immediately report if you suspect human exposure to rabies.

Background: Bats are the only known reservoir of rabies in the Pacific Northwest. Rabies has not been identified in wild animals other than bats in our state, but surveillance is limited.  Animal bites are not reportable, except when rabies exposure is suspected and rabies prophylaxis is being considered.

Recommendation: Be alert to potential rabies exposures and contact public health immediately when you suspect such exposure and are considering post-exposure prophylaxis.

The following high risk exposures should prompt a call to public health (425-339-5278 during business hours or 425-339-5295 afterhours):

·        Bat exposures (bite or non-bite, e.g., sleep exposure, mucous membrane exposures)

·        Bites from wild carnivores (when bite unprovoked, or animal acting ill or unusual behavior)

·        Animal bites which occurred while traveling in rabies-endemic areas (e.g., Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America)

When the animal is available for testing, public health can coordinate testing with the Public Health Laboratory.  If testing is negative, rabies prophylaxis can be avoided.   Advise patients who have captured a bat to keep it in a secure container until Communicable Disease staff contact the patient to coordinate rabies testing. 

Provoked bites from healthy acting dogs, cats, ferrets, rodents, squirrels, rabbits, opossums or raccoons are low risk and do not have to be reported to public health.  However, dogs, cats, and ferrets who have bitten a human should be confined and observed for a 10 day period when possible to observe for development of rabies symptoms. 

For information about rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, see http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/medical_care/vaccine.html.

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Health alerts include information about diseases or other health risks or issues that affect Snohomish County.