3rd, 4th and 5th Grade Students Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Division of Epidemiology and Immunization
How to Use This Curriculum
Rabies Q&A for Teachers
Introducing the Topic of Rabies to
Materials for Kids
Rabies Reminders (to take home)
What Should You Do If...
Rabies Review Quiz
Rabies Vocabulary Words
Rabies Maze – in PDF version only
Where’s the Risk? – in PDF version only
Word Search – in PDF version only
How to use the STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS Curriculum
STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS includes suggested remarks for the teacher to begin the program, student activities, and materials to take home. The program can normally be completed during a regular class period, although teachers have the option of expanding the program to more than one class period. A list of optional activities has been included in this guide as a supplement to the basic program. You may use this curriculum in its entirety or modify it to meet your needs and those of the students or school.
The following approach is recommended for presenting the
STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS program:
Review the “Rabies Q & A for Teachers” and other materials to familiarize yourself with the subject matter.
Use the “Introduction to Rabies” to begin the program.
Review the “Rabies Vocabulary Words” with students. Discuss any unfamiliar terms.
Discuss rabies, how it can be prevented, and what a child should do if bitten or scratched by an animal.
Engage in any or all of the rabies-related activities described in the packet.
Distribute Certificates of Participation to students.
Students completing the STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS program will
have a better understanding of rabies and its prevention. At the
completion of the program students should be able to:
Describe rabies and why it is an important health concern;
Identify wildlife that are most at risk for rabies;
Identify pets and other domestic animals that are most at risk of being exposed to or infected with rabies;
Describe the common symptoms of rabies infection in animals;
Describe how to protect themselves and their pets from rabies; and
Describe the steps to take if bitten or exposed to an animal.
This curriculum was created by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization. It was adapted from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services "Take the Bite Out of Rabies" “Rabies causes an inflammation
of the brain and is fatal once
Rabies Questions and Answers for Teachers
The following is provided as background information for teachers presenting
STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS. It is intended to familiarize teachers/instructors
with rabies and common measures for controlling rabies and preventing
unnecessary exposures to the disease.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a fatal disease that is caused by a virus. The rabies virus is present
predominantly in the saliva and nervous tissue (brain and nerve cells) of
infected animals and is transmitted most often by a bite. Rabies causes an
inflammation of the brain and is fatal once symptoms develop. Each year, over
6,000 cases of animal rabies are confirmed in the United States and more than
20,000 people receive anti-rabies immunizations after being exposed to a rabid
or a suspected rabid animal.
A serious outbreak of raccoon-strain rabies entered Massachusetts in 1992 and
subsequently spread to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The magnitude
of the problem is demonstrated by the fact that over 3,000 animals have tested
positive for rabies in Massachusetts since 1992. However, thanks to prompt
and careful case-by-case implementation of rabies prevention guidelines by
state and local public health officials and healthcare providers, in Massachusetts
there have been no cases of human rabies associated with the outbreak.
In 1996, there was one human case of rabies in New Hampshire in a person
who had been exposed to a rabid animal while traveling overseas. The last
case of domestically acquired human rabies in New England was in Connecticut
in 1995, when a person died of bat-strain rabies.
In other parts of the world where medical treatment is not readily available and
where animal vaccination campaigns are not in place, some 40,000 — 70,000
persons die from rabies annually.
What signs does an animal with rabies exhibit?
Animals infected with rabies may be aggressive and attack without fear or
provocation (“furious” rabies) or may act stuporous and have difficulty walking
because of partial or total paralysis (“dumb” or “paralytic” rabies). Animals
that are usually only out at night may be seen during the daylight and may
approach people or other animals they would normally avoid. Drooling, or
what has become known as “foaming at the mouth,” may or may not be
present. It is very difficult to know if an animal has rabies just by the way it acts
or appears. The only sure way to know if an animal has rabies is to euthanize it
and have its brain tested.
Which animals are most likely to be infected?
Mammals, particularly raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats are most commonly
infected. Other mammals can be infected through bites from these animals,
including pets and livestock. Small terrestrial rodents (such as squirrels, rats,
mice, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas) and rabbits are rarely found to have rabies.
Reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and insects do not carry rabies.
Through the distribution of an oral rabies vaccine for raccoons along the
northern side of the Cape Cod Canal, the spread of raccoon rabies to Cape
Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard has been prevented.
How do people get rabies?
Rabies infection in a person is usually the result of a bite or scratch from a
rabid animal. Infection can also occur when saliva from a rabid animal comes in
contact with a fresh, open wound or with the eyes or other mucous membranes. Getting saliva on the surface of intact skin does not cause rabies. Nor can you get rabies simply by petting an animal. Human rabies may develop weeks to months, and on occasion, years after a person is bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, if the person is not treated. Once symptoms develop, rabies is fatal.
What is the treatment for people exposed to rabies?
Animal bites and scratches should be immediately and thoroughly washed with
soap and water. Medical advice should then be sought to ensure that the
appropriate treatment is provided. This could include evaluating the risk of
wound infection and offering rabies vaccination.
Before the decision is made to treat an exposed person, the exposing animal, if
available, is evaluated to determine if it has rabies. Wild animals must be
euthanized and their brains tested for rabies virus. Dogs and cats are usually
confined and observed for signs of rabies infection. If the animal is not
available for testing, the decision to treat the exposed person(s) is based on the
assumption that the animal could have had rabies.
Rabies can be prevented by immunization, if administered shortly after
exposure. The treatment for people exposed to rabies involves two
medications. One, called rabies immune globulin (or RIG), contains preformed
antibodies to fight the virus and is given once. The other medication is rabies
vaccine, which ensures longer-lasting protection, and is given as five shots over
the course of a month. (Rabies shots are no longer given in the stomach.)
People who received the full series of rabies shots in the past need only two
rabies vaccine shots. To work best, the medications should begin as soon as
possible after the bite or scratch. However, if the animal has been caught and
5. If you are bitten or exposed to rabies, wash the wound thoroughly with lots of
warm water & soap.
Introducing the Topic of Rabies to Students
Use this information to introduce the STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS program to
students. If you are not the students’ regular classroom teacher, briefly introduce yourself. Inform the students that you will be discussing an important problem: RABIES. Ask students to answer the following questions so that you may gauge their understanding of the disease. Provide additional information, as needed.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus (a germ so small you can’t see it).
Rabid mammals can be found almost anywhere in the world. It is a disease,
which makes mammals very sick. These animals will usually die, but before
they die they will often infect other mammals.
How do animals get rabies?
The rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected mammals. When an infected
animal bites a healthy animal, the healthy animal may get rabies, too.
How do animals act when they have rabies?
Animals that have rabies may act differently than they would normally. They
may be more likely to attack or may look like they are sick or drunk. They do
not always drool or “foam at the mouth”. Animals that are usually out only at
night may be seen during the day. They may act aggressive or lose their fear of
humans. Sometimes, however, animals may look normal and still have rabies.
What are the most common animals that get rabies?
Mammals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, cats, woodchucks, foxes, and dogs
are the animals that are most commonly found to have rabies. These animals
can bite other animals, even a pet dog or cat, and make them sick. It is
important to protect our cats, dogs, and ferrets because if they are bitten and
get rabies, they could get very sick and die. And they could give rabies to us.
Livestock, such as cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, and goats can also get rabies if
bitten or exposed to a rabid animal. Pets like gerbils and hamsters do not
usually get rabies because they are kept in indoor cages. Squirrels, chipmunks,
other rodents, and rabbits rarely get rabies and reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds,
and insects never get rabies.
Can people get rabies?
STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS Rabies Vocabulary Words….
It is suggested that the teacher review the following terms and phrases with students. (Some words may be too advanced for children in lower grades):
RABIES A disease that affects the brain of animals, caused by a virus, and usually
spread by a bite
VIRUS One type of germ that causes disease – so small you can’t see it
EPIDEMIC A disease which is spreading rapidly
INFECTION When a germ enters the body of an animal or person and causes a disease
WILD ANIMAL Animals living outdoors in the wild that should not be kept as pets
MAMMAL A warm-blooded animal that is not a bird (as opposed to fish and reptiles which are cold-blooded animals)
STRAY ANIMAL A pet that has lost its owner or is allowed to roam outdoors uncontrolled
VACCINATE To give a shot to your cat, dog, or ferret to prevent it from getting rabies or other diseases
RABIES CLINIC A place where you can get your pet vaccinated against rabies
ANIMAL-PROOF Keeping things around your home such as garbage cans and chimneys covered to keep raccoons and other animals out, and not leaving pet food outdoors that might attract these animals
VETERINARIAN A doctor who takes care of animals
ANIMAL CONTROLOFFICER A person who helps control rabies in your community. One way the Animal Control Officer helps is by capturing stray cats, dogs, and other animals that might have rabies.
LOCAL HEALTHDEPARTMENT A group of people working in your community to help protect you from rabies and other diseases
STAY AWAY FROM STRAYS For Rabies word search, maze, and “Where’s the Risk?” activity sheet, please see the PDF version of this document.