Michigan health officials say rabies detected in dog from Detroit; first in state since 2011

Residents urged to have their pets vaccinated against rabies


DETROIT – A dog from Detroit tested positive for rabies -- a first in the state since 2011, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Officials said the 6-month-old dog had never been vaccinated against rabies. The last rabid dog detected in the state was in 2011 in Oakland County.

“Rabies virus is present in the saliva and brain tissue of an infected animal,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS.  “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.”

READ: 12-year-old boy attacked by stray dog, saves his siblings on Detroit’s west side

Officials said testing to determine the strain in the infected dog continues. The state is working with the Detroit Health Department to take all necessary precautions.

“We are taking proactive steps to keep residents and their families safe,” said Detroit Health Department 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.”

Officials said the family of the infected dog reported that it had an altercation with another animal in their yard. Individuals who came in close contact with the dog have been referred to healthcare providers.

A total of seven rabid animals -- including the dog -- have been detected in 2021. The six other animals are bats detected in Clinton, Ingham, Kent, Midland, Oakland and Ottawa counties.

“Pet and animal owners should contact their veterinarian about vaccinating animals against rabies,” said state veterinarian, Dr. Nora Wineland. “While the full extent of the disease in Michigan’s skunks and bats is unknown, it is important to understand that rabies is out there. Vaccinating animals and avoiding contact with wildlife will help to limit the spread of the disease.”

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About the Author:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.