Vector & Rabies Control
Our vector and rabies control program protects the public from exposure to rabies and vector-borne diseases, such as, hantavirus West Nile, Lime Disease, and plague. In cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, the Environmental Health staff keeps the public informed of current and emerging threats to the communities of Plumas County.
Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system and is usually passed to humans from the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies can also be transmitted through fresh scratches, breaks in the skin, or contact with mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose) from the saliva of an infected animal. Most animals are susceptible to infection and, if not treated early, is fatal. In Plumas County bats and skunks are the greatest concern. Other wild animals, such as foxes, coyotes, raccoons and opossums can also be infected with rabies. The Department of Environmental Health routinely submits wild animals for rabies testing that have had direct physical contact with humans or pets. It holds the responsibility of investigating all reported cases involving humans and pets, working cooperatively with the local animal control agency and law enforcement.
The Department of Environmental Health has set policies and procedures to prevent disease from being acquired by humans and pets. For this reason California law states that the rabies vaccination for dogs is mandatory. Although it is not required, it is strongly recommended that cats be vaccinated as well. Assembly Bill 272, Chapter 582.
Animal Bites: Wild and Domestic
All cases of animal bites on humans are to be reported to the local animal control agency. Animal Control then submits an incident report form to Environmental Health. If the animal is domestic (i.e. dog or cat), the animal is to be quarantined for 10 days. This quarantine (depending on the situation) may be in the owners home, at the veterinary clinic, or animal shelter. If the animal is wild, it is submitted to for rabies testing. The assigned Specialist at Environmental Health remains in contact with Animal Control and/or the testing facility until the case is closed and any chance of rabies is eliminated.
Length of Quarantine: 10 days for dogs and cats
14 days for all livestock
0 days for all wild animals - automatically tested for rabies
According to the CDC Vector-Borne diseases are bacterial and viral diseases transmitted by mosquitos, fleas, and ticks. Some of these diseases have long been present in the United States while others have recently emerged. These include some of the world's most destructive diseases, many of which are increasing threats to human health as the environment changes and globalization increases.
What is Plague?
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) defines plague as a bacterial disease that people can get if they are bitten by an infected rodent flea. Most persons with plague develop fever and swollen lymph nodes. Plague is treatable with antibiotics, but can progress to severe and sometimes fatal illness if diagnosis and treatment are delayed. Squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents in many areas of California can carry plague. Persons visiting, hiking, or camping in these areas should avoid contact with rodents.
Plague is present in the state of California. It is most commonly found in the foothills, plateaus, mountains, and coast. It is absent from the southeastern desert region and the San Joaquin Valley. Although urban rats were historically important in plague transmission, they no longer play an important role in California. Although wild rodents (primarily chipmunks and squirrels) in rural recreational and wilderness areas are the greater carriers of plague, it is possible for rodents in the suburban foothills of some larger cities to be carriers as well. Because rodents and their fleas maintain plague bacteria in nature, humans can contract with an infected wild animal is very dangerous. There are three ways in which humans can contract the plague bacteria:
- Through the bite of an infected flea.
- When blood or other body fluids of an infected animal enter through cuts or breaks in the skin or mucous membranes - your eyes, mouth, and nose.
- Through inhaling the bacteria from the cough or sneeze of an infected person or animal (i.e. a cat or dog). It is important to note that cats are especially susceptible to plague and, if infected, represent a serious source of potential human exposure. They may also transport infected rodent fleas into a home or campsite.
What is Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCPS)
HCPS is a rare, but often fatal, disease of the lungs. HCPS was first recognized in 1993 in the southwestern United States. Although many hantaviruses exist in nature, HCPS in the western U.S. is caused by a specific hantavirus called Sin Nombre virus (SNV) when a human is infected through contact with urine, and droppings, and saliva from a hantavirus-infected rodent. Most of those who have been infected with HCPS contracted the disease while cleaning out rodent-infested spaces where there is little to no air circulation. Other ways in which one may contract the disease include:
- The consumption of food contaminated with rodent urine and/or droppings
- Touching surfaces where rodents have been, and then putting their hand in their mouth
- Being bitten by an SNV infected rodent.
While cases of HCPS have been reported in 34 U.S. states, more than 95% of reported cases have occurred in states west of the Mississippi River. Fortunately for California, the only rodents carrying and shedding the Sin Nombre virus are deer mice. Other rodents, such as squirrels, chipmunks, and mouse mice have not been shown to pose as a HCPS threat to humans.
West Nile Virus (WNV)
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease that was originally found in Africa. In 1999, it was detected in the eastern United States; since then the virus has spread throughout the United States and is well established in most states, including California.
For more on West Nile Virus please visit West Nile.
Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF) Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is an illness caused by bacteria that are carried by soft ticks. Although TBRF is rare in California, it can cause serious illness in people. They are primarily found in forested and mountain regions between 3,000 and 9,000 feet. They like dark, cool places such as rodent nests, shedded wood piles outside buildings, and between walls or beneath floorboards inside buildings. While rodents (squirrels, chipmunks, and mice) are preferable to soft ticks, other mammals, including humans are good secondary sources to feed on when the other is not available. People are the most susceptible to getting bitten in the rural mountains during the summer months. The bite is painless and they feed only for a minutes so many go unnoticed. Many people are bitten while asleep and never realize that they have been bitten. Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever Brochure (PDF)
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