• Wed. Jun 29th, 2022

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is generally transmitted through a bite.

Animals most likely to transmit rabies in the United States include bats, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and skunks. In developing countries, stray are the most likely to spread rabies to people.

Once a person begins showing signs of rabies, the disease nearly always causes death. For this reason, anyone who may have a risk of contracting rabies should acquire rabies vaccinations for protection.


The first symptoms of rabies can be very similar to the symptoms of the flu and last for days.

Later signs and symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Partial paralysis
  • Fear brought on by attempts to consume fluids because of difficulty swallowing water
  • Fear brought on by windblown on the face
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia


The rabies virus causes a rabies infection. The virus spreads through the saliva of infected animals. Infected animals can spread the virus by biting another animal or a person.

In rare cases, rabies can be spread when infected saliva gets into an open wound or the mucous membranes, such as the mouth or eyes. This could happen if an infected animal licked an open cut on your skin.

Animals that can transmit the rabies virus

Any mammal (an animal that suckles its young) may spread the rabies virus. The animals most possible to spread the rabies virus to people include:

Pets and farm animals: dogs, cats, cows, ferrets, horses, goats

Wild animals: bats, beavers, coyotes, foxes, monkeys, raccoons, skunks, woodchucks

In very rare cases, the virus has been spread to tissue and organ transplant recipients from an infected part.

Risk factors

Factors that can raise your risk of rabies include:

  • Traveling or living in developing countries where rabies is high
  • Activities that expose you to contact with rabies-infected wildlife, such as exploring caves inhabited by bats or camping without taking precautions to keep wildlife out of your camp.
  • Working in a laboratory with the rabies virus
  • Working as a veterinarian
  • Injuries to the head or neck can help the rabies virus travel faster to your brain


To reduce your risk of coming in contact with rabid animals:

  • Vaccinate your pets. Cats, dogs, and ferrets can be vaccinated against rabies. Ask your veterinarian how often your pets should be vaccinated.
  • Keep your pets confined. Keep your pets inside and supervise them when outside. This will help keep your pets from coming in contact with wild animals.
  • Protect small pets from predators. Keep rabbits and other small pets, such as guinea pigs, inside or in protected cages so that they are safe from wild animals. These small pets can’t be vaccinated against rabies.
  • Report stray animals to local authorities. Call your local animal control officials or other local law enforcement to report stray dogs and cats.
  • Don’t approach wild animals. Wild animals with rabies may seem unafraid of people. It’s not normal for a wild animal to be friendly with people, so stay away from any animal that seems unafraid.
  • Keep bats out of your home. Seal any cracks and gaps where bats can enter your home. If you know you have bats in your home, work with a local expert to find ways to keep bats out.
  • Consider the rabies vaccine if you’re traveling or often around animals that may have rabies. If you’re traveling to a country where rabies is common and you’ll be there for an extended period, ask your doctor whether you should receive the rabies vaccine. This includes traveling to remote areas where medical care is difficult to find.
  • If you work as a veterinarian or work in a lab with the rabies virus, get the rabies vaccine.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical care if you are bitten by any animal, or exposed to an animal suspected of having rabies. Based on your injuries and the situation in which the exposure happened, you and your doctor can determine whether you should receive treatment to prevent rabies.

Even if you aren’t sure whether you have been bitten, seek medical attention. For instance, a bat that flies into your room while you are sleeping may bite you without waking you. If you awake to find a bat in your room, think you have been bitten. Also, if you find a bat near a person who cannot report a bite, such as a small child or a person with a disability, assume that person has been bitten.