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.
Due to an increase in calls related to bats, we've updated our reporting information.
If you find a bat in your home, please call the Snohomish County Health Department at 425-339-3503 only if there has been a human or animal (pet) exposure. The Snohomish County Health Department's role is to determine if there has been a true rabies exposure and if rabies testing is needed.
- The following examples count as an exposure:
- A bite or scratch
- Finding a bat in the room when waking up
- Finding a bat in the room with an unattended small child, an immobile, intoxicated or mentally incapacitated person, or a pet
- If you believe your pet has been exposed, please contact your veterinarian for further assessment. If there has been no human or animal exposure, contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife if you need help disposing of the bat unless you can do so safely. If you dispose of the bat on your own, please make sure to wear thick leather gloves to avoid any exposures.
- If you have been exposed to a bite or scratch, please also contact your primary care provider for medical attention. Your healthcare provider should contact the Snohomish County Health Department only if there is any suspicion for rabies exposure. Keep your pets updated on their rabies vaccines to avoid transmission of the rabies virus from their exposure to wildlife.
- Do not release or trash the bat if someone has come into contact with the bat.
Public Health Seattle King County has a video demonstrating safe ways to capture a bat in your home.
Reporting Animal Bites
If you have been bitten by an animal in a foreign country or have come into contact with a bat through a bite, scratch, or sleep exposure, you should contact the Snohomish County Health Department Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response program at 425-339-3503, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or go to your local Emergency Department.
The Snohomish County Health Department will determine if you need rabies shots - post-exposure 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
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:
- Keeping animal cages clean and free of 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
- 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. View the Animals and Your Child's Health (PDF)
- Take special precautions at petting zoos. See our Petting Zoos (PDF) brochure.
- Washing your hands after handling animals or their food and after cleaning up their waste
Common illnesses that can be spread by animals include:
- E. coli