What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease affecting the central nervous system. It is transmitted from infected mammals to man and is invariably fatal once symptoms appear.
Where is the virus found?
The virus is found in many wild and domestic mammals including, raccoons, skunks, bats, and unvaccinated dogs.
How is rabies spread?
Rabies is usually spread through a bite from an infected animal; however, saliva contact with mucous membranes or open wounds on the skin are also possible routes.
Who gets rabies?
All warm blooded mammals including man can get rabies.
What are the symptoms of rabies?
Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever and sometimes itching or pain at the site of exposure. The disease eventually progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and death.
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
The incubation period is variable but is normally two to eight weeks. Incubation periods of over one year have been reported.
When and for how long is a person able to spread rabies?
Person-to-person transmission is extremely rare, however, precaution should be taken to prevent exposure to the saliva of the diseased person.
What is the treatment for rabies?
Treatment requires prompt scrubbing of the bite site, followed by the administration of rabies immune globulin (dosage dependent on weight) and four doses of human diploid cell rabies vaccine administered in the arm on days 0, 3, 7, and 14 after exposure.
What happens if rabies exposure goes untreated?
Exposure of man to a rabid animal does not always result in rabies. If preventive treatment is obtained promptly following a rabies exposure, most cases of rabies will be prevented. Untreated cases will invariably result in death.
What can be done to prevent the spread of rabies?
Exposure to rabies may be minimized by removing all stray dogs and cats, having all pets vaccinated and staying away from all wild animals especially those acting abnormally.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.