An animal with rabies may stagger or stumble and display unprovoked aggressive behavior or be over-friendly. Animals with advanced rabies may also foam at the mouth. This is because the rabies virus affects the salivary glands causing hyper-salivation. They may also develop hydrophobia (fear of water).
None of these symptoms are definitive signs that an animal has rabies, and rabid animals may or may not exhibit these signs.
If an animal shows any of these signs, you should contain it to prevent possible exposure either to you, your family, or another animal, and contact your veterinarian or animal health department.
To confirm an infection, the animal must be euthanized and a brain tissue sample must be tested for the presence of rabies in a reputable laboratory.
The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue of an animal infected with rabies. The infectious material then needs to pass into the body, usually through a bite wound, open cuts in skin, or less commonly through mucous membranes such as the mouth or eyes.
A person can only get rabies by coming in contact with these specific excretions and tissues. Rabies virus becomes noninfectious when it dries out, for example, when infected saliva or other material is exposed to sunlight.
You have not been exposed to rabies if
• the animal doesn't have rabies itself – most dogs do not have rabies
• you have petted or handled an animal
• you have had contact with blood, urine or feces
In extremely rare cases, humans have been infected because they inhaled aerosoled saliva that contained the virus (e.g., in caves with very large bat populations) and through organ transplants from donors with rabies infections.
If you been bitten or scratched by an animal that is unknown to you and/or that appears unwell, you may have been exposed to rabies.
Please take any potential exposure seriously. Thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and seek urgent medical attention.
Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or nervous system tissues of an infected mammal to another mammal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and causes severely distressing neurological symptoms, disease in the brain, and, ultimately, death.
Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can pass from other animals to humans. Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate.
Vaccinate pets according to the recommended schedule, and take your pet to the veterinarian for a booster should they get bitten by a potentially rabid animal. Additionally, spay or neuter your pet to reduce the number of potential strays that are not vaccinated against rabies. Keeping your pet on a leash when outdoors prevents inadvertent exposure to a rabid wild animal.
Most puppies that bite are exploring the world using their mouths and will interact with people in a playful way, which includes nipping and biting, and do not have rabies. However, all bites from unvaccinated animals living in regions where rabies is endemic should be investigated by a medical expert.
If the puppy has been restricted indoors, walked only on a leash outdoors, and the owner is confident that the puppy has not interacted with any wildlife or other dogs, then it is extremely unlikely that the puppy is infected with the rabies virus. A person bitten by an unvaccinated puppy that has been roaming outdoors or exposed to other animals may be at risk for the rabies virus and should seek medical advice. Even puppies that have been contained in a fenced-in backyard, may still have been exposed to high risk wildlife such as skunks, coyotes, fox, raccoons and bats, and a bite from an unvaccinated puppy is a considered a risk for contracting the disease if the puppy has not been in a restricted environment.
Infection usually occurs following a bite or scratch from an infected animal, and the rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of the host animal. Most often, the virus is passed to human populations through dogs (95% of worldwide cases), but the other species have been identified as important reservoirs of the rabies virus, including bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes.
While not as prevalent, transmission can also occur when saliva comes into direct contact with mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth), and very rarely through inhalation of aerosolized saliva, and through corneal and internal organ transplantation.
There have been cases where butchering raw meat from rabid animals has transmitted the infection, presumably through infectious neural tissue coming into contact with open wounds in the skin.
Yes – even if they spend most of their time indoors. You and your family have a lot of contact with your pets and if they contract rabies there is a high chance of them passing it to you before you know there is a problem.
In many countries it is a legal requirement that house pets be vaccinated against rabies.
Vaccinating your animals against rabies protects them and is an important step to reducing risk for you and your family.
Yes. It is possible, though very rare, to develop clinical rabies after an incubation period of several years. Typically, the incubation period for the rabies virus is between one and three months; however, the length of the time to onset of disease symptoms can be as short as a few days to as long as several years. As long as there are no symptoms of rabies after an exposure, PEP can still prevent clinical rabies from developing. If there is a suspicion of exposure, even as long as several years ago, victims can still benefit from PEP, and should immediately consult a medical expert to determine if it is necessary.
If there is potential that there was exposure to the rabies virus, then PEP is recommended.