Michigan identifies 1st case of rabies in dog since 2011 after Detroit puppy tests positive

A 6-month-old puppy in Detroit is Michigan's first case of rabies in a dog since 2011.

The puppy is still being tested to determine which strain of rabies the dog has.

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According to officials, the dog was not vaccinated against rabies.

Rabies is typically found in bats and skunks, though all mammals can become infected. 

"Rabies virus is present in the saliva and brain tissue of an infected animal," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  "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."

Pet owners are urged to vaccinate their dogs to protect them. Michigan law requires that dogs and ferrets receive a rabies vaccine. Cats, even indoor ones, are also strongly encouraged to be vaccinated.

"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 that owns the rabid puppy said it recently was involved in a fight with another animal outside at night.

People who were in close contact with the infected dog have been referred to healthcare providers so their need for post-exposure prophylaxis treatment can be evaluated. Health officials said that combined with prompt wound cleansing, appropriately administered rabies PEP is uniformly effective in preventing rabies in exposed individuals. 

So far this year, seven rabid animals, including the dog, have been detected in Michigan. The other cases include six bats: one each from Clinton, Ingham, Kent, Midland, Oakland, and Ottawa counties.