Animal Bites and Rabies – Advice from the Doctors at South Tampa Immediate Care

animal-bites-and-rabiesCute, furry animals are often irresistible – especially to children. You’ve probably warned your kids that wild animals can be unpredictable and, even though they may appear to be friendly and safe, they can attack without warning and thus should be avoided. Unfortunately, though, even superficial bites and scratches from a household pet can carry disease and pose a risk of infection, such as tetanus or rabies. Rabies is a very serious viral infection that enters the body through a cut, scratch, or mucous membrane, and then attacks the central nervous system. Following an incubation period of five days to more than a year, flu-like symptoms can develop and then progressively worsen to anxiety, agitation, and cerebral dysfunction. Once symptoms manifest, there is no known cure for rabies. However, there are effective vaccines that can provide immunity if administered prior to or promptly after exposure. In North America, common carriers of rabies include raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes, and these wild animals can infect dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals as well. Therefore, anyone who has been scratched or bitten by an animal should carefully clean the wound and seek medical attention immediately.To care for a superficial wound from a familiar household pet that is known to be immunized and in good health:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water under the pressure of a faucet for a minimum of five minutes. Do not scrub, which can bruise the tissue.
  • Apply antiseptic cream.
  • Watch for signs of infection, such as a fever or swelling, redness, or pain at the wound site. If any of these symptoms develop, contact a physician right away.

To care for a minor wound from a strange animal, or a deep bite or puncture wound from any animal:

  • Apply pressure with a clean towel or bandage to stop any bleeding.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water under the pressure of a faucet for a minimum of five minutes. Do not scrub, which can bruise the tissue.
  • Carefully dry the wound and apply a sterile dressing.
  • Immediately contact a healthcare practitioner to determine whether treatment, such as a rabies vaccine, tetanus booster, or antibiotic, is required, and for guidance on how to properly report the attack.
  • Try to locate the animal that inflicted the wound, but do not attempt to detain it yourself. Instead, contact a local animal control office for assistance. Any animal that attacks should be captured, confined, and observed for rabies by a professional.

For more health and safety tips, please consult our online series of articles, or feel free to stop by South Tampa Immediate Care. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL, and we would like to extend a warm welcome to patients from Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Brandon, and throughout the Greater Tampa Bay area.