The Carroll County Health Department is asking for help locating a Rottweiler with a pink collar that officials say bit a person on Friday, April 12, between 4 and 5 p.m. on Main Street in Sykesville.
The individual who was bit by the dog will likely begin post-exposure treatment for rabies if the dog is not located and found to be in good health, officials said.
The county is “absolutely not” looking for the dog in order to euthanize it, but to ensure the dog is in good health and up to date on its vaccinations, said Andrea Hanley, deputy director of environmental health.
Hanley said there are maybe five or six times per year when the health department has to put out a public call for assistance in locating an animal that might have bitten somebody.
“We just want to avoid anybody having to go through the [treatment] series if they don’t have to,” she said.
If the dog is located, it will be put into home quarantine for 10 days, meaning that the dog stays home and indoors except to use the restroom, and should have “minimal exposure” to humans during that period, Hanley said.
If the dog shows no symptoms in that time period, the situation is considered cleared. The quarantine happens even if the animal is up to date on its vaccinations, Hanley said.
The treatment involves an immunoglobulin infusion at a hospital, and then a series of shots at the health department, Hanley said. The department can and will help to arrange for treatment, but does not cover the cost of treatment.
In cases when insurance companies do not understand the purpose of the treatment, Hanley said, the department will work with the patient to ensure post-exposure treatment is covered.
Rabies is considered fatal in humans and animals if it goes untreated. Inside the human body, the rabies virus travels slowly from its point of entry — whether that be a bite or a scratch — through the nervous system and eventually to the brain.
Once it reaches the brain, either the virus itself or immune responses to the virus damage brain tissue. Once a person starts to display symptoms of rabies, it is usually a sign that the virus has reached the brain and that it is too late to receive treatment.
Post-exposure treatment can be applied just about any time between a person’s exposure and the onset of symptoms, but sooner is better than later.
Maggie Kunz, a health planner with the health department, said there are specialists at the department to walk through incidents with people who might have been exposed to the virus. She said about 60 people per year in Carroll County go through the post-exposure treatment process.
If someone is bit or scratched by an animal and thinks they may have been exposed, Kunz said, it is “urgent” but “not an emergency.”
“If anybody is ever concerned, they can call the health department during business hours. They don’t have to be panicked,” Kunz said. “They will talk with the person, talk through what happened and asses their risk. There’s a pretty thorough assessment done, but of course everyone wants to err on the side of caution.”
Anyone with information about the dog or its owner is asked to contact the health department at 410-876-1884 or the Humane Society of Carroll County at 410-848-4810.