A 60-year-old Barnstable County resident has contracted rabies and been admitted to hospital in critical condition. The case is the first such in the state of Massachusetts for over 70 years, according to a Department of Public Health (DPH) release. The DPH is waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm the exact variety of rabies under examination. In addition, while the DPH has not identified the victim, it believes he may have contracted the virus from a bat bite.

While hundreds of people undergo anti-rabies treatments every year, the unidentified victim did not take proper medical action after being bitten either because he wasn't aware or ignored it.

The rabies virus is found in the saliva of an infected human or animal and normally spreads through bites and close contact. The virus will also spread if the infected saliva contaminates an open wound or scratch. Unfortunately, though the actual chances of infection are relatively rare, the disease is usually fatal, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, which adds that the disease has an incubation period that is typically between 1 and 3 months but can go up to a year.

However, with the provision of timely immunization protocols and anti-body treatments, the disease can be prevented.

The DPH has released the following guidelines that must be strictly followed, should any person be bitten or scratched by an animal...

  • If bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for ten minutes.
  • Call a health care provider to determine if anti-rabies treatments are required.
  • Contact local animal control officers to identify the animal for testing and quarantine.

The DPH has also provided general guidelines on the prevention of rabies in the state of Massachusetts...

  • Keep chimneys capped and repair holes in attics, cellars and porches, to keep wild animals like bats and raccoons out.
  • Teach children to never approach animals they don't know - even if they appear friendly.
  • Report any animal that behaves oddly to your local animal control official.
  • Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Do not keep wild animals as pets. This is against the law in Massachusetts.
  • Make sure pets are vaccinated against rabies; by law, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be regularly vaccinated.
  • Don't feed pets outside the house. Empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep pets in a fenced yard or on a leash. Do not let them roam freely.
  • Keep garbage cans securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild and stray animals.