Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through certain exposures to the saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal and is nearly always fatal without proper post-exposure prophylaxis [treatment]. Rabies is zoonotic, which means it can spread from animals to people.
In the United States, raccoons are the most common animals to be rabid, followed by skunks and bats.
All dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies. Consider vaccinating valuable livestock and horses. Animals that have frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated.
Bats have small teeth that may leave marks that are not easily seen. Although many people know if they have been bitten by a bat, there are certain circumstances when a person might not be aware or unable to tell you that they have been bitten. These circumstances include:
In the above circumstances, safely contain the bat for rabies testing. If the bat tests positive for rabies, or if it is unavailable for testing, the person should seek medical advice regarding the need for post-exposure treatment. Contact your local or state health department for assistance with animal testing and additional information.
Prompt treatment, if indicated, after a bite can stop rabies infection and prevent the spread of disease.
Page last updated on: July 19, 2019