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Rabies Fact Sheet

What is Rabies?
Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and nervous system. It can infect all mammals and is seen mostly in dogs, cats, livestock, hyenas and other wild animals. People can also get the disease. Once a person or animal becomes sick with rabies, they will usually die within one week.

How do people get Rabies?


The virus is in the saliva, brain, and nerves of an infected animal. People get rabies by being bitten by a rabid animal or by getting saliva or nervous tissue from the animal into an open cut, scratch or mucous membranes (nose, mouth, or eyes).

How can I tell if an animal has Rabies?


Usually, the first sign of rabies is a change in the animals behavior. They can become aggressive, attacking for no reason, or they may become very quiet. Wild animals can lose their fear of people and act tame. Rabid animals may walk in a circle, drag a leg, or fall over. Some cannot swallow so they are not able to eat or drink and often drool. Animals usually die within a week after first becoming ill.

What are the symptoms of Rabies in humans?


People usually begin to show signs of rabies 1 to 3 months after the virus infects them. Early signs of rabies can be fever, headache, or an unexplained tingling, burning, or numb sensation at the wound site. This usually changes quickly to nervous system signs such as confusion, sleepiness, agitation, weakness or paralysis. Sometimes people will have difficulty swallowing or a fear of water. Rabies is almost always fatal!

How can you rule out Rabies infection?


Rabies testing in humans is very difficult, but infection can be ruled out if the biting animal is shown to be free of rabies virus. This is done through observation of the animal or laboratory testing. If the animal is alive and healthy 10 days after the bite, it is very unlikely that the animal was spreading virus when it bit the human. If the animal is dead, the District Veterinary Office can collect the brain for rabies testing. If an animal has been vaccinated against rabies during the last year, it is also unlikely to be infected with rabies.

Can Rabies be prevented?


Yes! If you are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, you should get postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). This should include a series of four or five shots of vaccine over several weeks and one shot of rabies immune globulin. The vaccine is given in the arm. To be most effective, PEP should begin soon after the exposure and all shots in the series must be completed.

What can I do to protect my family and animals from Rabies?


AVOID contact with animals and wildlife you do not know. VACCINATE your dogs and cats for rabies and keep them current (yearly). SEEK medical care if bitten. REPORT animal bites to the District Veterinary Office.

What should I do if I am bitten by an animal?


Wash the wound with lots of soap and water right away. Go to the hospital to be evaluated for PEP. Report to the District Veterinary Office.

Reporting an animal bite to the District Veterinary Office


Have this information ready: How and where the bite occurred. Description of the animal (color, markings, long or short hair, collar or tags). If it is owned, name, address, and phone number of owner. Whether the animal has been seen in the area and what direction it was traveling. If the biting animal is dead: Wear gloves or use a shovel to move the animal. Put the animals body in a shaded area away from people and other animals. Wash your hands with soap and water Call the DVO to collect the animal Reporting to the DVO is important because they can help observe the animal, test the animal for rabies, assess the liability of the animal owner, investigate other bite victims, and advise your community about animal vaccination.