The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) are urging Michigan residents to have their pets and animals vaccinated against rabies after confirmation that a six-month-old dog in the City of Detroit (Wayne County) tested positive for rabies. The infected dog had never been vaccinated against rabies. Prior to this instance, the last rabid dog in the state occurred in 2011 in Oakland County.
While any mammal can be infected with rabies, the virus is typically carried by skunks or bats in Michigan. Testing to determine the strain of rabies in the infected dog is still taking place.
“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 MDHHS. “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.”
The state is working closely with the City of Detroit Health Department to take all 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.”
The family of the rabid dog reported that it recently had an altercation with another animal in their yard during the night. Individuals who came in close contact with the infected dog have been referred to healthcare providers so their need for post-exposure prophylaxis treatment (PEP) can be evaluated. Combined with prompt wound cleansing, appropriately administered rabies PEP is uniformly effective in preventing rabies in exposed individuals.
State law requires that dogs and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. It is also important to make sure cats, even those kept strictly indoors, be vaccinated against rabies.
“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.”
In 2021, a total of seven rabid animals, including this dog, have been detected in Michigan. The other cases include six bats: one each from Clinton, Ingham, Kent, Midland, Oakland, and Ottawa counties.For more information on rabies, please visit Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases