Rabies detected in Detroit dog, first in state since 2011, officials say

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
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A dog in Detroit has become the first in Michigan since 2011 to test positive for rabies, state health officials announced Friday.

The six-month-old canine had not been vaccinated against rabies before testing positive, officials said. Testing is underway to determine the strain of the virus.

The family of the rabid dog reported that it recently fought with another animal in their yard during the night, state officials said.

A big brown bat native to Michigan. So far this year, seven rabid animals have been detected in Michigan, state officials said. A dog in Detroit tested positive, and the other cases include six bats: one each from Clinton, Ingham, Kent, Midland, Oakland and Ottawa counties.

Those who came in close contact with the infected dog have been referred to health care providers to be evaluated for their need for post-exposure treatment. Combined with prompt wound cleansing, the treatment is effective in preventing rabies in people who have been exposed.

The state is working with the Detroit Health Department to take necessary precautions.

"We are taking proactive steps to keep residents and their families safe,” said Detroit Health Department's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair. "We will have teams going door-to-door in the area to inform residents and educate on the importance of getting their family pet vaccinated. We will also be canvassing for any other injured or sick animals." 

So far this year, seven rabid animals have been detected in Michigan, state officials said. The other cases include six bats: one each from Clinton, Ingham, Kent, Midland, Oakland and Ottawa counties.

The last rabid dog in Michigan was reported in 2011 in Oakland County.

Rabies is typically carried by skunks or bats in Michigan.

“Rabies virus is present in the saliva and brain tissue of an infected animal,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “People can be exposed to rabies when they are bitten by a rabid animal. Other possible routes for exposure include getting infectious material in your eyes, nose, or mouth or on fresh cuts in the skin.

"Make sure pets are vaccinated and avoid contact with stray or wild animals to reduce your risk of exposure to this potentially fatal disease."

State law requires that dogs and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Cats can also be vaccinated.  

“Pet and animal owners should contact their veterinarian about vaccinating animals against rabies," said Dr. Nora Wineland, state veterinarian. "While the full extent of the disease in Michigan’s skunks and bats is unknown, it is important to understand that rabies is out there. Vaccinating animals and avoiding contact with wildlife will help to limit the spread of the disease."     

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