The Rabies Control program investigates animal-inflicted injuries to humans and/or their pets (e.g., bites, scratches), provides consultative services to the public and medical community regarding zoonotic diseases and rabies exposures, and works closely with Polk County Animal Control to improve public health and safety through investigation of animal-related incidents and education about the risks of rabies.

Protect Yourself and Your Pets From Rabies

Rabies is a deadly viral disease affecting the central nervous system. It can be prevented but not cured. A healthy animal or human can get rabies when bitten, licked, or scratched by a sick animal. The virus lives in the saliva and nervous tissue. You can get rabies if animal saliva gets into a cut, scratch, or mucous membrane. 

Thankfully, due to the efforts of animal control programs and widely available vaccines, human rabies infection is now rare in the US. However, if a human rabies infection progresses to the point of having symptoms, it is nearly always fatal. Rabies has one of the highest mortality rates of any disease on Earth. 

Basic Facts about Rabies

Here are some precautions to prevent the transmission of rabies:

  • It is the law to have your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to have a current rabies vaccination.  

  • Unvaccinated puppies and kittens should not be left outdoors without supervision.

  • Follow leash laws and keep your pets restrained.

  • Report stray animals to Polk County Animal Control.

  • Teach your children to stay away from animals they do not know including wild animals. A rabid wild animal may act tame.

  • If you observe a raccoon or other animal acting sick or abnormal -  Contact Polk County Animal Control​​.

  • Feed your pets indoors. Do not toss table scraps into your yard. Do not leave pet food outside for any length of time.

  • Keep your property free of exposed garbage, pet food, and bird feed. If trash must be stored outside at night, put it in sturdy tightly closed containers.

  • Keep your home in good repair to prevent animals from entering through cracks and crevices. Use strong metal mesh to cover potential entryways such as chimneys, dryer vents, and holes in eaves.

  • Do not touch an injured animal - Contact Polk County Animal Control.

  • Stay away from animal traps and storm drains. Raccoons sometimes travel through storm drains.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal...

  1. Immediately wash the area with soap and water, and consult your physician or seek medical care.

  2. A tetanus booster is recommended if you have not had one in the last 5 years.

  3. If the animal you had an incident with dies/killed, do not throw it in the trash or bury it. Call to have it picked up by Animal Control.

If an animal attacks your pet...

1. Put on gloves before touching your pet.

2. Isolate your pet from your other pets and/or small children.

3. Contact your veterinarian to get a rabies booster as soon as possible.

4. Contact Polk County Animal Control.

5. If your pet has tooth puncture marks after being outside alone, immediately contact your veterinarian and give a rabies booster immediately.

If you find a bat in your residence...

  1. Don’t panic. Never touch a bat or any other wild animal!

  2. You cannot get rabies from just seeing a bat or being in a room or hallway with one.

  3. A bat that is being handled might bite in self-defense. A bat that you can approach – one that cannot fly, is on the floor, or clinging to a wall – is much more likely than other bats to be sick or injured and might have rabies. Either way, NEVER touch a bat.

  4. If you see a bat in your home, do not approach it or touch it. Stay back and call 828-894-0187 in order to place a report to Polk County Animal Control.

  5. If you are bitten or come in direct contact with a bat, don’t wait: Immediately get medical attention through the local hospital's emergency department. A doctor’s treatment after a bite is simple and effective.

  6. Remember: Bat exposures may be difficult to recognize, and should be carefully assessed and explained to those who may be affected because bats have tiny, sharp teeth that inflict limited injury, so a bite may not be evident. The bat may have been found in a room or in close vicinity to someone who may have been sleeping or napping. In this situation, rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be initiated promptly for all persons who were potentially exposed. 

    CDC - Rabies Postexposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
    CDC - Rabies Vaccine

    Additional Resources

    Rabies in North Carolina
    Polk County Animal Control
    Rabies Information for Individuals and Families
    Rabies Information for Healthcare Providers
    North Carolina Rabies Public Health Program Manual