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Rabies

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. 

Who Gets Rabies?

All warm blooded mammals including man are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats, woodchucks, cats, dogs, and cattle are most likely to get rabies. Rabbits, opossums, squirrels, hamsters, rats and mice seldom get rabies. Birds, reptiles and fish do not get rabies.

How is Rabies Spread?

Rabies is almost always contracted by exposure to a rabid animal generally through a bite, but saliva contact with broken skin is also a possible route. Person to person transmission is rare; however people are advised to prevent exposure to the saliva of a diseased person.

Casual contact, such as touching a person with rabies or contact with non-infectious fluid or tissue (urine, blood, feces) does not constitute an exposure and does not require post-exposure prophylaxis. In addition, contact with someone who is receiving rabies vaccination does not constitute rabies exposure and does not require post-exposure prophylaxis.

Symptoms of Rabies

  • Generally appear within 2-8 weeks
  • Irritability, headache, fever, sometimes itching or pain at the site of exposure
  • Eventually disease progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and death

Treatment

Wash any wounds immediately. One of the most effective ways to decrease the chance for infection is to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.

Starting vaccinations will be based on your type of exposure and the animal you were exposed to, as well as laboratory and surveillance information for the geographic area where the exposure occurred. In some cases vaccinations can be avoided if the animal that caused the exposure can be safely captured and tested for the rabies virus. Any animal suspected of being a rabies carrier should be captured if that can be done safely. Contact the Wisconsin Humane Society or the Milwaukee Health Department (414-286-3521) to determine if testing is indicated. 

Rabies postexposure vaccinations consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine given on the day of the exposure, and then again on days 3, 7, and 14. The vaccine is given in a muscle, usually in the upper arm. This set of vaccinations is highly effective at preventing rabies if given as soon as possible following an exposure.  If preventive treatment is obtained promptly following a rabies exposure, most cases of rabies will be prevented. If untreated, cases will invariably result in death.

 

Preventing the Spread of Rabies

 In some cases vaccinations can be avoided if the animal that caused the exposure can be safely captured and tested for the rabies virus. Any animal suspected of being a rabies carrier should be captured if that can be done safely. Contact the Wisconsin Humane Society (414-264-6257) or the Milwaukee Health Department (414-286-3521) to determine if testing is indicated.

Exposure to rabies may be minimized by vaccinating all pets and staying away from all wild animals, especially those acting abnormally. Low cost vaccines for pets are available at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Commission  - (414) 649-8640, or the Wisconsin Humane Society.

One common source of possible exposure for both people and pets are bats that enter people's residences. Click here to learn more about bat-proofing your home and protecting pets from rabies risks. Click here to find professional services that offer bat control and removal.

Bat-Proofing and Bat Exclusion

Technical Information about rabies is available from the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control 

 Learn more at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html