Press Release

September 27, 2011


State Health Department Recognizes World Rabies Day

World organizations seek to end deadly disease 

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – September 28, 2011 is World Rabies Day, a global campaign to spread the word about rabies prevention. With the theme, Working Together to Make Rabies History!, the World Rabies day initiative was founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alliance for Rabies Control to bring people around the world together to address rabies control and prevention.

“Rabies can be prevented through increased awareness and education about the disease, as well as pet vaccinations,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold said. “Preventing and controlling rabies starts at the community level. World Rabies Day is an excellent time to talk with a veterinarian about pet vaccinations and learn what animals typically transmit rabies and how to avoid them.”

Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. However, rabies in humans is 100 percent preventable. Humans can get rabies after being bitten by an infected animal or when saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or a wound. Without medical treatment, rabies is a fatal disease. If you are bitten or exposed to a rabid animal, seek immediate medical attention. Treatment includes rabies immune globulin and a vaccine series.

In 2010, 117 bats tested positive for rabies in Illinois.

“You cannot tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid. The animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit other symptoms to have rabies,” said Connie Austin, state public health veterinarian. “Any wild mammal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat, can have rabies and transmit it to humans.”

Changes in any animal’s normal behavior, such as difficulty walking or an overall appearance of illness, can be early signs of rabies. For example, rabid skunks, which normally are nocturnal and avoid contact with people, may approach humans during daylight hours. A bat that is active during the day, found on the ground or is unable to fly, is more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often easily approached, but should never be handled.

The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies and protect communities:

  • Be a responsible pet owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.
  • Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
  • Call the local animal control agency to remove stray animals in your neighborhood.
  • Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. Do not allow children to take wild animals to school for show and tell. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn to reduce the risk of exposures to rabid animals.
  • Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot gain entry.
  • If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat outdoors until after speaking with animal control or public health officials. If you are able to do so without putting yourself at risk for physical contact or being bitten, try to cover the bat with a large can or bucket, and close the door to the room.

Information about keeping bats out of your home or buildings can be found by logging on to

Information about rabies can be found at

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
Questions or Comments