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How much do you know about rabies?

Avoid rabies by avoiding animals. (Courtesy graphic)

Avoid rabies by avoiding animals. (Courtesy graphic)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Rabies is a virus that is normally spread by the bite of an infected animal.

The virus is almost always fatal without proper post-exposure treatment, however in the United Kingdom, the risk for rabies is very low.

The U.K. eliminated rabies from its animal population early in the 20th century. It maintains this by requiring immunization in vulnerable animals coming into the country and applying quarantine laws to unimmunized animals. Rabies is still common in more than 150 countries in stray dogs, cats and other wild animals. You can protect yourself and your family by reducing your exposure to rabies and seeking care if exposed.

How can I reduce my exposure to rabies?
· Vaccinate pets (cats, dogs and ferrets) on a regular basis. You can schedule appointments with the RAF Feltwell Veterinary Clinic by phone at commercial 01638 527 097 or DSN 226-7097.
· Avoid contact with stray and unfamiliar animals.
· Avoid and report dogs and cats that appear unusually hostile, confused or timid.
· Do not handle wild animals, especially bats.
· Minimize situations that attract wild and stray animals, such as leaving the lids of outside trash cans open and leaving pet food out.
· During daylight hours be particularly careful of wild animals that are not normally out during the day, such as skunks, bats and raccoons.

How can I reduce the risk of rabies during and after my deployment?
· Never "adopt" stray animals as mascots.
· Immediately report all bites and scratches to your supervisor, and seek care from a healthcare provider.

Who can I contact if I see a stray animal on base or in base housing?
Contact security forces at DSN 226-2333 or the animal welfare officer, Yvonne Chadwick, at DSN 226-3897.

What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?
Early symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat and feeling tired. Advanced symptoms include pain and tingling at the place where bitten, hallucinations, a fear of water because of sudden tightening of the muscles in the throat, being paralyzed and unable to move parts of the body.

When should I seek treatment?
Seek medical care right away if bitten by an animal that could have rabies. In people, it can take several months before signs of rabies show. By the time symptoms begin to show, the disease is almost always fatal. If you relocate or return from a deployment before finishing post-exposure treatment, make sure to notify a provider at your new location.

For additional information including prevention tips, contact the Public Health Flight at DSN 226-8777 or commercial 01638 528 777, or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/rabies/.