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Rabies is a disease that can affect all mammals, and each year over four thousand animals – most of them wild - are diagnosed as having the disease in the United States. The disease is found in all states except Hawaii, and also is found in Canada and Mexico and many other countries around the world.

Rabies can be given to people and other animals if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. Although rabies in humans is very rare in this country, about eighteen thousand people still receive treatment to prevent it each year. There are several ways for you and your family to avoid the need for the treatments to prevent rabies.

Since contact with wild animals is the main way people and their pets get exposed to rabies, avoid any direct contact with wild animals – especially skunks, raccoons, and bats. Also, make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies. This includes your cats as well as your dogs, since more cats than dogs were reported rabid for eight of the last ten years.

Signs in an animal which should lead you to suspect that it may be rabid are:

1. Nervousness
2. Aggressiveness
3. Excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth
4. Abnormal behavior such as wild animals loosing their fear of human beings, or animals normally active at night being seen in the daytime.

If you suspect that an animal has rabies, notify your animal warden or health department so the animal can be captured. Do not attempt to capture the animal yourself. If you are bitten or seriously scratched by any animal, you should make sure you wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, as soon as possible and contact your doctor immediately. Also notify your state or local health department.