The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recognizing Sept. 28 as World Rabies Day 2020. The theme for World Rabies Day 2020 is End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies can pass from wild animals, commonly bats and skunks in Santa Barbara County, to pets. Although transmission to humans is rare, the disease is nearly always fatal.

If you have been in contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, particularly if you have been bitten or scratched, you should talk with a healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses.

It is important to know that, unlike most other animals that carry rabies, many types of bats have very small teeth, which may leave marks that disappear quickly and can be easily missed. If you are unsure, seek medical advice to be safe.

Often, animal bites or scratches go unreported. It is important to report these incidents, especially if the animal has symptoms of rabies including agitation, biting and snapping, drooling, acting disoriented, appearing partially paralyzed, or generally acting sick.

Call your nearest County Animal Services office to make a report: Santa Barbara: 805-681-5285; Lompoc: 805-737-7755 Santa Maria: 805-934-6119.

Rabies vaccinations are recommended for all warm-blooded domestic animals including cats, dogs, horses and livestock.

Santa Barbara County residents and their pets often live in close contact with wildlife. Community members can protect their pets by keeping them indoors at night, walking them with a leash, scanning the yard for wildlife before allowing them outside, and not leaving food outside that will attract wildlife.

If you notice a typically nocturnal animal that is active during the day and acting abnormally, contact Santa Barbara County Animal Services for assistance. Rabies is a preventable disease that can be avoided by leaving all wildlife alone and vaccinating your family pets.