Between 16,000 and 39,000 people are treated annually in the U.S. for rabies following exposure to a potentially rabid animal.
Wild animals account for up to 92 percent of reported cases for rabies according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the central nervous system.
Carroll Senn remembers being bitten by a fox.
"One of his teeth went in there," Senn said while pointing to the injury on his leg. "He was crazy-eyed looking."
The damage inflicted by the animal was potentially deadly.
"If you wait until the signs and symptoms show themselves, then it's too late," warns Adam Myrick, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. "Rabies is essentially 100 percent fatal."
A crazed raccoon foaming at the mouth is often the poster-child for rabies, but bats, foxes, skunks and coyotes can also be carriers of the deadly disease.
Regardless of whether you live in a city or the country, wildlife officers say you're just as likely to have an encounter with one of these animals.
Senn says he was inside his garage when a fox attacked his leg.
"He was clamped on; he didn't let go until my pants tore," Senn recalls.
Foxes are nocturnal animals. So, if they are roaming and attack during the daytime, this could be an indication the animal is rabid. Other signs could include wild animals acting tame, or a tame animal acting wild.
Dr. Mary Blinn is a veterinarian at the Mecklenburg County Animal Control Shelter in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"You always have to assume the worst for the safety of the person who was bitten," Blinn warns.
Assume there is a risk of rabies no matter the animal species, and no matter how big or small the bite.
Immediately call animal control, because they are the only people who should attempt to catch the animal and test it for rabies.
Then, the victim should be taken to an emergency room to be vaccinated.
There is no test to tell if a person is infected with rabies except by obtaining a brain tissue sample.
That's why it only makes sense to start the rabies vaccine schedule as soon as possible following a possible exposure.
Some of the symptoms rabies can cause include seizures, confusion, coma and death.
Wildlife officials say you should never encourage a wild animal to come inside your home.
You should also avoid feeding, touching or adopting wild animals or strays.
Don't leave food outside, and keep garbage cans sealed.
Board up attic and wall openings, and don't let your pets roam free.
Should your path cross with a wild animal, try to let it wander off. Then, alert your children, neighbors and local animal control.
"Wildlife should not be feared, but definitely respected," says Jonathan Shaw, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
You should also keep as much distance between you and the animal.
Remember, if a rabid animal finds you and attacks, your life may depend on how quickly you can get to the nearest emergency room.
The lives of others can also be saved by simply making a phone call to report a potentially rabid animal to authorities.
The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The following information is from eMedicineHhealth.com.
The following is from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.
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