Health Department seeks public’s help identifying others who may have been exposed
LARGO, MD—The Prince George’s County Health Department is alerting community members that a rabid groundhog was recently found in Hyattsville, MD.
On or around May 13th, 2020, a groundhog with unknown wounds was found acting strange near the 6900 block of Calverton Dr. in Hyattsville. The groundhog was captured for rabies testing. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) confirmed that the groundhog tested positive for rabies on May 18th. The groundhog was euthanized.
There are no known human exposures at this time, however due to the risk of rabies exposure, the Health Department seeks the public’s help in finding any persons who may have had contact with any groundhogs in the identified area. If you know of any persons or animals that may have had contact with the above groundhog between April 26th and May 18th, please contact the Health Department immediately at 301-583-3750.
“Rabies is often a life-threatening disease; however, it is highly preventable by beginning post-exposure treatment immediately following exposure. Treatment is determined by the type of animal contact and patient assessment,” said Dr. Ernest Carter, Prince George’s County Health Officer. “Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal and is easily transmissible through a bite of an infected animal. The best method to eliminate the risk of rabies exposure is to avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. We encourage community members to report any unusual or erratic animal behavior they notice and to avoid handling and feeding any unknown animals in their community.”
When a person is bitten or exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal, the disease is prevented by administering four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period, and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of treatment. Each year, approximately 900 Marylanders receive preventive treatment after exposure to a rabid or potentially rabid animal.
To prevent your exposure to rabies:
- Do not approach, handle or feed stray dogs and cats, and enforce leash laws.
- Teach your children not to approach any unfamiliar animals.
- Have your dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated against rabies and keep the vaccinations up-to-date.
- Do not leave pets outside unattended or allow them to roam free.
- Cover garbage cans tightly and do not leave pet food outside; this may attract wild and stray animals.
- Teach children to stay away from wild animals or animals they do not know.
- Prevent bats from entering your home by using window screens and chimney caps and by closing any openings greater than ¼ inch by ½ inch. Bats found in the home should be safely collected, if possible, and tested for rabies. Please call the Prince George’s County Animal Management Division at 301-780-7200 for questions or assistance.
- Wear gloves when handling an animal if it has been in a fight with another animal. Keep it away from people and other animals and call your veterinarian or local health department to report the animal exposure.
If you are bitten by or exposed to an animal that may be rabid, you should take the following steps:
- If it is a wild animal, try to trap it if you can do so safely. If the animal must be killed, try not to damage the head.
- If it is an owned animal, get the animal owner’s name, address, and telephone number.
- Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water; if available, use a disinfectant to flush the wound.
- Get prompt medical attention.
- Immediately report the exposure to your local animal control agency, health department, or police.
- Consider treatment if a bat was present and exposure cannot be reasonably ruled out (e.g., a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room, or an adult sees a bat in the room with a previously unattended child or mentally disabled or intoxicated person).
To learn more about rabies in Maryland, including rabies surveillance statistics and efforts to prevent and control the disease, please visit the MDH website https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/Pages/rabies.aspx.