Two people were bitten by a black mammal at a Walmart in Westerly, Rhode Island, on July 4. Neither of the individuals have come forward, and authorities are trying to hunt them down for fear of their lives.

The incident occurred inside or near the store between 4 and 5 p.m., according to a statement released by the state Health Department. The warning was released jointly with the Department of Environmental Management.

Since the animal has not been tested, authorities are running on the assumption that the animal – possibly a ferret, mink, or weasel – has rabies. [1]

The statement said, in part:

“The two individuals who were bitten, and others who may have had contact with the animal, are at risk of rabies exposure and should be evaluated. Once symptoms appear, rabies is fatal in people and in animals. Rabies immunization must be started as soon as possible after exposure.” [2]

As the CDC points out, animals that have rabies may be hostile and try to bite humans, they may drool or foam at the mouth. More commonly, wild animals may act tame or shy, and you may easily be able to get close to it.

Some Symptoms of Rabies

Humans infected with rabies generally exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Fear of water because of the difficulty in swallowing
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Partial paralysis [3]

Precautions Against Rabies

Authorities say the public should always take the following steps to make sure they never come in contact with rabies:

  • Make sure all pet dogs, cats, and ferrets are up to date on rabies vaccinations, as required by state law.
  • Avoid all contact with stray, wild, or free-roaming domestic animals, and avoid feeding these animals.
  •  Avoid feeding pets outdoors, as this will attract other animals (this is especially dangerous when feeding groups of free-roaming cats).
  • Dogs should be walked on leashes and kept in fenced yards. Do not let pets wander unsupervised.
  • Report all animal bites to local city or town animal control officers.
  • Securely cover all garbage cans so wild animals cannot scavenge for food. [2]

As I said earlier, once symptoms appear in humans, it is fatal. Rabies is treated with a fast-acting rabies immune globulin shot to prevent the virus from infecting the person. It is given near the site of the animal bite, as soon as possible after the bite.

After that, health authorities say patients should receive a series of rabies vaccines to help their bodies learn to identify and fight the rabies virus. These vaccines are given as injections in the arm, and patients receive 4 injections over 14 days. [4]

Sources:

[1] Providence Journal

[2] NBC 10 News

[3] The Mayo Clinic

[4] The Mayo Clinic


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.