Our reactions are primal, colored by myths, modern movies and novels such as“Rage,” “Cujo,” “Old Yeller” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” You may have heard the popular warning: Beware of bats or raccoons in the daytime. They carry rabies!
But the truth is such a raccoon might be a mother taking a break from caring for her babies, one that has distemper or another disease, or one dazed after being injured by a passing car.
A bat in the daytime might be a juvenile learning to fly but “driving” erratically and without parental consent to be out and about, according to Charles Rupprecht, VMD, PhD, chief of Rabies Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
No signs can tell you if an animal is rabid, he says. That’s why there are diagnostic tests.
Wild animals acting oddly—perhaps approaching people—may indicate they have rabies. But nonrabid wild animals also may do that because they are used to humans, says Rupprecht.
Another myth is that certain animals “carry” the disease. Any mammal infected with the virus is its victim as well. Some species are better hosts. Those that lick, suck and bite in their social interactions allow the virus to spread through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. Hosts that live in large and dense social groups help maintain the virus’ success. more…