rabies info

What is rabies?

Rabies is a preventable, viral disease that is usually passed through the bite of an infected animal. Most reported cases are from wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, and squirrels. When somebody is bitten by an infected animal, the virus affects the central nervous system causing brain damage and death.

How is rabies transmitted?

Rabies is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, such as foxes, bats, or squirrels. In very rare cases, transmission has happened through the eyes, nose, and/or mouth, aerosol transmission, and corneal and organ transplants.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

The early signs of rabies typically end after 2-10 days. Once more serious symptoms show, the disease is almost always fatal.  Early symptoms include:

  • Weakness and discomfort
  • Fever
  • Headache

Later symptoms include:

  • Discomfort/prickling/itching sensation at site of bite
  • Cerebral dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Delirium
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia

How is rabies diagnosed?

Several tests are required to diagnose rabies in humans, because it can be difficult to diagnose. Saliva, serum, spinal fluid, hair samples, and skin biopsies may be necessary to find virus isolation or antibodies present in the body.

How is rabies prevented?

In animals:

  • Keep your animal updated on their rabies vaccination
  • Watch your pets closely when outside and in public
  • Spay or neuter your pets to prevent unwanted pets that may not be properly vaccinated
  • Call animal control to remove unwanted animals from the neighborhood, as these animals could be ill

Rabies is 100% preventable in humans if proper medical care is given. However, over 50,000 people die each year in Asian and African countries from rabies. The most important source of rabies comes from unvaccinated dogs. It is very important to vaccinate your dogs for rabies. People can prevent rabies by:

  • Vaccinating their pets
  • Watch your pets, especially around wildlife
  • Spay or neuter your pets to prevent unwanted animals that may not be properly vaccinated
  • Report stray or ill animals to animal control
  • Be cautious around wildlife

Who is most at risk for rabies?

Everyone can get rabies, but children are more susceptible, as dogs are more likely to bite children.

When should I seek medical attention for rabies?

Seeking medical attention for rabies is urgent but not an emergency. First, clean the wound well with soap and water to prevent disease from spreading. Visit you doctor immediately so can determine if you need a dose of the rabies vaccine or postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

For more rabies information, click here.