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Animals and Disease

The rabies program staff works to reduce the risk of a person getting rabies.  Rabies is a very rare but fatal disease that people can get if they are bitten by a rabid animal or exposed to saliva from a rabid animal. Our staff:

  • Interviews individuals who had contact with an animal that may have had rabies to determine if an exposure has occurred.
  • Works with animal control to assure that domestic pets that bite someone remain in quarantine for at least 10 days to rule out the risk of rabies.
  • Works with the veterinary community and Washington State Department of Health to test wild animals especially bats, to rule out the risk of rabies.
  • Provides community education on rabies prevention to physicians, veterinarians, animal control employees, childcare facilities, camp operators, and to schools.

Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Bites and Disease Carrying Animals

What should I do if I am bitten by a dog, a cat or a pet ferret?
Contact your health care provider for care of the wound.  Contact animal control and report the incident to them.  They can help you to assure that the animal owner quarantines the animal that bit you for at least 10 days to make certain the animal does not have rabies.

What should I do if a bat bites or scratches me or if I see one of my children handling a bat?
Contact your health care provider for care of the wound.  Contact our office by calling 360 676-6724 and report the incident.  One of our staff will interview you and help to determine what to do next.

What should I do if I find a bat in my house.
Try to close the door to the room and keep the bat contained without touching the bat and contact our office. We may need to send the bat to the lab to test for rabies.  The Center For Disease Control (CDC)  recommends that we consider this an exposure to rabies unless you saw the bat fly through the door and back out.  For example if a bat was in your house at night while you and others in the house slept, we cannot rule out that the bat did not expose someone in the home, especially a small child.

Can I bring a bat or other animal to your office and have you test it?
No, we cannot accept live specimens.  The State Department of Health Laboratory in Shoreline Washington test the animals.  The lab has very specific rules we must follow before they can test the animals.  Our office works through the local veterinary community and animal control officials to prepare animals for shipment to the lab.  Contact our office, a veterinarian, or animal control official before you touch the animal of concern.  This will help to assure that additional people are not exposed.

Related Links
Bats Northwest:

DOH and rabies:

CDC and rabies:

CDC and dog bites:

Humane Society and Dog Bites:

Contact Information:
Whatcom County Health Department
Disease Response & Control
Phone: (360) 676-6724

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