Mental & physical health

Report an animal bite

You should report animal bites from wild animals and domestic pets to prevent rabies. Rabies is a deadly but preventable virus. It spreads primarily by the bite of an infected mammal.

A rabid animal can pass the virus to an animal or human when a bite or scratch breaks the skin. It is rare to get rabies from an infected animal’s saliva getting into the eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound.

In the United States, the rabies virus is found mainly in wild animals, such as:

  • Bats.
  • Raccoons.
  • Groundhogs.
  • Foxes.
  • Skunks.

It also has been found in some domestic pets like dogs, cats, and ferrets. Cases of rabies are rare in small rodents like squirrels and mice.

How

If you were bitten by a wild animal:

  • Call the Philadelphia Animal Care & Control Team (ACCT Philly) at (267) 385-3800. ACCT Philly will capture and test the animal for rabies. Avoid damaging the animal’s head. The head is sent to the lab for testing.
  • Take care to prevent more bites.
  • Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and running water.
  • Get medical attention. Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room. In Philadelphia, medical professionals must report the animal bite to the Department of Public Health.
  • If you’re not sure if you were bitten, you should still seek medical attention or contact the Acute Communicable Disease Program at (215) 685-6748.

If you were bitten by a pet dog, cat, or ferret:

  • Get the pet owner’s name, address, and telephone number. Find out if the animal has a current rabies vaccination and write down the rabies tag number.
  • Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and running water.
  • Get medical attention. Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room. Medical professionals in Philadelphia must report the animal bite to the Department of Public Health. You can also report the bite yourself by calling (215) 685-6748.

If you were bitten, have this information ready when you call:

  • Description of the animal.
  • If it is a pet, who owns it and where it lives.
  • How the bite occurred.
  • Whether local residents have seen the animal in the area before and what direction it was traveling.
  • How the animal behaved.

Treatment for those exposed to rabies

Rabies treatment depends on the health of an animal 10 days after the exposure. If the pet dog, cat, or ferret is healthy and alive 10 days after the incident, the person scratched or bitten does not need rabies vaccine. The Department of Public Health will check with the pet owner to see if the pet is healthy after 10 days.

If you had contact with an animal that may be rabid, you can get a series of four vaccinations and an initial dose of rabies immune globulin. These are effective at preventing rabies infection. Most local emergency departments have the rabies vaccine and immune globulin. If you do not have insurance or are having difficulty getting this treatment, call (215) 685-6742.

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