How to deal with bites from domestic and wild animals will be the focus of a program presented by the Charles County Health Department later this month.

The presentation Sept. 21 at the Somers Community Center will also address the West Nile virus and how to control mosquitoes around homes. The free program is scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. and is designed for those 18 and older, according to an announcement from the department's division of environmental health.

This is one of a series of workshops to be presented. Those interested in attending should call the Somers center at 301-932-6679 by the day before each program.

More information on the series is available at www.charlescounty.org/cs or by calling the Department of Community Services at 301-934-9305 or 301-870-3388.

The workshop on rabies follows a series of incidents over the summer that have involved sightings of rabid animals or confrontations between them and area residents.

Charles County Animal Control Services and the Health Department have each issued advisories on how to avoid contact with rabid wildlife. Some of their observations and recommendations follow.

* Do not provide food, intentionally or inadvertently, for native wildlife species. Residents who feed pets outside should remove all food that remains uneaten after a half-hour. Any food left out, especially at night, is an invitation for wild animals, especially foxes, raccoons, opossums and skunks -- making residential yards part of their natural habitat.

* Generally, a wild animal that becomes infected with the rabies virus will succumb to the disease in its natural habitat without coming into contact with people or their pets.

* Make sure pet dogs, cats or ferrets are current on rabies vaccinations, which are required by law. Low-cost vaccination clinics are periodically held by the Humane Society of Charles County and other organizations.

* Keep pets safe at home. An animal that is allowed to roam freely is much more likely to come into contact with other pets or wild animals.

* In most instances, when a pet is exposed to a wild animal, the wild animal escapes and is not recovered for rabies testing. In such cases, even if the pet is current on its rabies vaccination, it may be placed in a 45-day to six-month quarantine.

* Rabies is a disease of animals and people, and the virus is spread through the saliva of a rabid animal. Usually this occurs when a rabid animal bites or scratches a person or animal, but secondary exposure can occur from saliva on the coat or fur of an animal that was exposed to a rabid animal. The virus may get into the body through open cuts or wounds or through the eyes, nose or mouth.