Animal & Insect Bites
Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. But there’s something else you should know.
Pets sometimes carry germs that can make people sick. The diseases people get from animals are known as zoonotic (zoe-oh-NOT-ic) diseases. Learn more about the benefits and risks of having pets.
When to report an animal bite?
Animal bites to people must be reported as soon as possible to the Local Rabies Control Authority (LRCA) in your community. In Williamson County, LRCA falls under Animal Control Officer in associated with the local law enforcement agency. The LRCA will investigate the incident and quarantine the animal for observation or testing, in accordance with Texas and local laws.
Local Rabies Control Authorities and Animal Control Officers are trained to deal with animal bites and potential rabies exposure incidents. They know how to properly quarantine or test a biting animal to determine if a bite victim was exposed to rabies.If you have additional questions about postexposure prophylaxis, you can call our EPI Division at 512-943-3660.
WILCO CITY & COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL CONTACT PHONE NUMBER:
Cedar Park Animal Control - 512-260-4600
Georgetown Animal Control - 512-930-3510
Granger Police Department (Wilco) - 512-943-1300
Hutto Animal Control - 512-759-5978
Leander Animal Control - 512-528-2800
Round Rock Animal Control - 512-218-5515
Taylor Animal Control - 512-352-5483
Unincorporated Williamson County Animal Control & Liberty Hill - 512-864-8282
Preventing Diseases Transmitted by Animals
Pets, petting zoos, and animals at local fairs all provide great experiences - but they can also be a significant source of disease, allergies, and injury. At least 30 diseases can be transmitted to humans from animals, often from the animal's feces.
Ways to prevent the spread of disease from animals to you or your children include:
- Keeping animal cages clean and free of waste
- Keeping your pet or animals in good health and up to date on shots
- Providing a space outside of children’s play areas for animals to relieve themselves, including keeping litter boxes in an area not accessible to children
- Separating live animals and birds from areas used for food preparation, storage, or eating
- Storing animal food supplies out of reach of children
- Supervise any contact children have with animals, and ensure proper handwashing.
- Washing your hands after handling animals or their food and after cleaning up their waste
- Ensure household pets are up to date on all vaccinations
- E. coli
Stinging and Biting Bugs in Central Texas
ASPS STINGING CATERPILLARS
Most stinging caterpillars belong to the insect family known as flannel moths. When the moth caterpillar rubs or is pressed against the skin, venomous hairs stick into the skin and could cause a severe burning sensation and rash.
Read more about asps and other stinging caterpillars.BED BUGS
Bed bugs have become an increasing problem throughout North America in recent years. No transmissible diseases have been found in bed bugs. Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) does not respond to bed bug complaints. WCCHD has no investigative or enforcement powers regarding bed bugs on private or public property.
Read more about preparing a strategy to eradicate bed bugs in your home from US Environmental Protection Agency.
Read more about Bed Bugs in Texas from DSHS Public Health Sanitation Program.
Texas is home to many types of beneficial bees, including the European Honey bee. Recently, Africanized honey bees have introduced into Texas, and now can be found throughout the state. The Texas Apiary Inspection Service is part of Texas A&M AgriLife, which provides information on bees, bee removal, and Africanized bees. If you suspect you have bees in your yard or nearby, or have bee-related questions, contact the Apiary Inspection Service.
In Texas, the term “chigger” commonly is used in Eutromicula mites. During the summertime, these mites cause most of the itchy bumps after walking outdoors through grassy or brushy areas. These mites can inhabit disturbed grassy and weedy upland areas and may be encountered in overgrown briar patches and along the edges of wooded areas.
Read more about chiggers' habitat and itchy symptoms.
Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals and people. In Texas, most flea problems are caused by the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. This flea feeds on cats, dogs, and wildlife. Other kinds of fleas, such as the dog flea, human flea, and rat flea, are less common on pets and in homes. Fortunately, fleas need not be a serious problem because there are many effective treatments.
Read more about how to control fleas in your home.
Fire ant stings burn like fire (hence the name “fire ant”). Often, there is localized swelling at the site of the sting. Within a few days, a small pustule forms where the stinger was inserted into the skin, and the area often is itchy. Pustules are sterile while intact, but scratching can open them and lead to a secondary infection.
Read more about avoiding the sting of fire ants.
Read more about how to plan, implement, and evaluate a spot eradication program.
Kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, are fairly common throughout Texas. Texas is home to several species of kissing bugs, many of which are known carriers of Chagas disease. Kissing bugs get their name from their preference for biting their hosts around the mouth area while they are sleeping. Dogs can also be affected by kissing bugs and Chagas disease. If you find a kissing bug, researchers at Texas A&M are interested in identifying and testing the bug for Chagas disease.
Never touch a kissing bug with your bare hands. If you see an insect you believe to be a kissing bug and would like to submit for research, use a glove, vial, or small plastic bag to catch it. To kill the bug, place the sealed container in a freezer for 24 hours.
Read more about the kissing bug and how to submit a specimen to Texas A&M University Research.
Texas is home to two types of venomous spiders: the widow spiders (black widows, brown widows) and the brown recluse spider. Both spiders are found throughout most of Texas, indoors and out, and those bitten can experience severe medical complications.
Read more about symptoms and treatments of venomous spider bites in Texas.
Ticks feed on the blood of animals (such as rodents, rabbits, deer, and birds), but will bite humans too. Ticks live in grassy or wooded areas, or on the animals themselves. Ticks can transmit serious and potentially fatal diseases like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia. Many of these illnesses can be treated effectively when caught early, so see your doctor right away if you have a fever, rash or flu-like symptoms after being in tick-infested areas. Frequent tick checks on humans and pets helping to find a tick before it can transmit disease.
Texas Department of State Health Services does offer to test ticks for diseases that were found on humans only.
Read more about preventing tick bites in humans and animals.
What is considered an exposure to bats?
An exposer to bats is considered as being bitten or scratched by a live bat.
Please seek medical care if you have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Your healthcare provider should contact Williamson County and Cities Health District if there is any suspicion of rabies exposure. Do not release or trash the bat if someone has come into contact with the bat. If you believe your pet has been exposed, please contact your veterinarian for further assessment.
If the bat is alive, and there has been no human or animal exposure, leave the bat alone. If the bat is dead, and there has been no exposure, contact Animal Control for the best way to dispose of the bat.
Please make sure to wear thick leather gloves to avoid any exposures. Keep your pets updated on their rabies vaccines to avoid transmission of the rabies virus from their exposure to wildlife.
WCCHD does not accept bat samples for testing.
Animal Bite Reporting
Animal bites to people must be reported as soon as possible to the Local Rabies Control Authority (LRCA) in your community. In our community, the Local Rabies Control Authority is typically an Animal Control Officer associated with the local law enforcement agency. The LRCA will investigate the incident and quarantine the animal for observation or testing, in accordance with Texas and local rabies prevention laws. Texas Rabies Laws
Local Rabies Control Authorities and Animal Control Officers are trained to deal with animal bites and potential rabies exposure incidents. They know how to properly quarantine or test a biting animal to determine if a bite victim was exposed to rabies.
Rabies in Animals
Animal species varies in their likelihood for having and transmitting rabies. Some animals are “low- risk” for rabies. These include opossums, shrews, moles, squirrels, gophers, mice, rabbits, rats, and armadillos.
Some animal species in Texas are considered high risk for rabies transmission. These include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. When an exposure to a “high- risk” animal occurs, the animal must be submitted for rabies testing. By testing the animal’s brain tissue, the risk of rabies can be ruled in or out. Since brain tissue is needed for the rabies test, rabies suspect animals should not be killed by trauma or gun shot to its head.
Domestic dogs and cats pose more of a rabies risk than the “low-risk” species. Even when vaccinated against rabies, dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be quarantined for 10 days (240 hours) to prove they did not transmit rabies to the human bite victim. Home quarantine may be an option in your community, but only if certain criteria are met. It is better to have the animal observed in a secure quarantine pen or tested for rabies than to start the rabies postexposure vaccination series right away because the odds are that a domestic animal will not have rabies. Rabies is uncommon in domestic animals, so bites from dogs and cats do not warrant immediate postexposure vaccinations.
Reporting Abnormal Animal Behavior
Animal control officers should be notified when animals or wildlife appear to be exhibiting signs of rabies. Abnormal behavior or abnormal movement that might indicate rabies includes: staggering, falling, and circling.
Medical Treatment of Animal Bite Wounds
Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water as a first aid procedure. For all animal bites, contact your physician to determine the need for a tetanus shot, receive proper wound care, and to discuss the risk of rabies exposure. The LRCA will determine need for quarantine or testing options for the biting animal.
For a rabies risk consultation, please contact:
- Williamson County and Cities Health District,
Communicable Disease Management Team
- DSHS Health Service Region 7 Temple
- Download the Bats & Rabies Public Health Guide
- Download the Bats in Schools Poster
- When Should I Seek Medical Attention?
Bats are a common sight to see in Central Texas, and not all bats are carrying diseases.
Rabies exposure occurs only when a person is bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal, or when abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes are contaminated with the saliva, brain, or nervous system tissue of a potentially rabid animal.
It may take several weeks or longer for people to show symptoms after being infected with rabies. The early signs of rabies can be fever or headache, but this changes quickly to nervous system signs such as confusion, sleepiness, or agitation. Once someone with a rabies infection starts having these symptoms, that person usually does not survive. This is why it is critical to talk to your doctor or health care provider right away if any animal bites you, especially a wild animal.
Read more about the Mexican free-tailed bat, also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat.
Read more about bats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.