Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of mammals. If left untreated it is always fatal.

Rabies has occurred in Massachusetts periodically since the early 1800's. In Massachusetts, a strain of bat rabies has been present for many years. Approximately 3-10% of bats annual submitted test positive for rabies. Since 1977, a raccoon rabies strain has spread through the East Coast arriving in Massachusetts in the mid 1990's. It has, from time to time, shown up in dogs, cats, foxes and bats. This strain of rabies can also be carried by foxes, skunks, cats, dogs and domestic livestock.

Rabies is spread through a bite or a scratch from an infected animal. You can protect yourself and your family by observing some precautions and following a few simple rules.

Pet Owners

  • Pets are the most likely bridge between rabid wildlife and people. Vaccinate all dogs and cats. (This is the law.)
  • Feed pets indoors, do not leave pet food outside.

Campers, Hikers, Picnickers

  • Do not feed wild animals
  • Avoid approaching or handling wild animals
  • Secure your food and garbage beyond the reach of wild animals

House/Apartment Dwellers

  • Avoid approaching or handling wild animals
  • Do not feed wild animals, use "clean design" bird feeders
  • Keep garbage and trash in containers with tight fitting lids
  • Place trash in containers on the same day as trash pick-up day
  • Cap chimneys with appropriate screens
  • Seal openings in attics, basements, porches, sheds or barns

Sporting Dog Owners, Hunters, Fur Trappers & Buyers,
Problem Animal Control Agents, Taxidermists

  • Wear rubber gloves and skinning apron while skinning or handling animals
  • Consult a physician about receiving pre-exposure vaccination
  • Clean and disinfect knives, cutting boards, traps and other equipment with a solution of 1 part household bleach and 20 parts water (5% solution)
  • Capture or kill for testing any animal that has bitten or scratched your dog. Do this without risking animal bites or scratches. Do not freeze the animal or its head.
  • Do not feed suspected sick or diseased wild animals to your pets
  • Do not prepare meat with equipment used for skinning, preparing hides, heads or antlers
  • Meat near wounds should be trimmed and discarded
  • Cook meat thoroughly--heat destroys the virus

If You have Contact With an Animal Suspected of Carrying Rabies

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • If possible, capture, kill or confine the animal without damaging its head--do not freeze the animal or its head
  • Contact your local health department

MassWildlife Works to Protect the Public & Wildlife by

  • Monitoring outbreaks of wildlife disease
  • Sharing information with humane and animal health authorities
  • Prohibiting the importation or relocation of wildlife
  • Prohibiting possession of wildlife as pets
  • Regulating wildlife populations through harvest of animals by licensed hunters and trappers
  • Increasing public awareness of wildlife through education

For Comprehensive Information on Rabies

See Mass. Department of Public Health, Rabies