Rabies Fact Sheet
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly disease that attacks the nervous system. The virus lives in the saliva of infected animals. Rabies is fatal once it reaches the brain.
The rabies virus only infects mammals, which puts pets, livestock, wildlife, and people at risk.
How is Rabies Spread?
The Rabies virus is spread mainly through bites from infected animals. The disease can also be spread when infected saliva comes in contact with open wounds, skin breaks, or mucous membranes. Most often, domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and farm animals pick up the virus from wild or stray animals. The animals most commonly affected include raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Avoid contact with all wild animals. Never feed a wild animal or take it into your house.
Stay away from strays and other people’s pets. Report strays to your local health department or animal control officer.
How to Protect your Pets
Have your pets vaccinated. See your veterinarian for information about rabies immunizations and required booster shots. If you can’t afford vaccinations, many areas have clinics that offer free shots for pets.
Never feed pets outdoors and confine them to your property.
Act on any attack or dog bite suffered by your pet. Immediately contact your veterinarian and animal control authority.
The Signs of Rabies
"Dumb Rabies" – The animal may become shy or hide. This may be followed by sluggishness, confusion, and depression.
"Furious Rabies" – The animal may become excitable and aggressive. It can go from being confused and calm to immediately attacking.
Other signs include:
- Daytime activity in animals normally active at night
- Staggering, weakness, and paralysis
- A chance in the sound of the animal’s voice
- Inability to eat or drink
What to do if You are Bitten
- Wash the wound thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
- If the animal is wild, confine it if possible and call the local animal control authorities.
- If the animal is a pet, get the owner’s name and address and ask for proof of rabies vaccination.
- Call your physician at once.
- Report the bite to local health and animal control officials.
Last updated Oct. 20, 2011