Rabies is a viral disease which affects the nervous system. It can affect all
mammals, including man. Rabies is a fatal disease once symptoms appear.
is rabies spread?
Rabies is spread
most often through the bite of a rabid animal. It can also be spread through a
scratch that breaks the skin or through exposure of an open wound or mucous
membrane (eye, nose, or mouth) to saliva from a rabid animal. In Pennsylvania,
rabies has been found in raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, cats, dogs, and other
What are the symptoms or rabies?
Early symptoms in humans include irritability, headache, fever,
and sometimes itching or pain at the site of the exposure. The
disease progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles,
convulsions, delirium, and death. By the time any symptoms
appear, rabies cannot be successfully treated. Therefore,
infection must be prevented by administration of the rabies
vaccine immediately after exposure. The symptoms of rabies in
animals may vary from a quiet, depressed state to a furious,
erratic behavior pattern.
soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
The time between
exposure and the onset of symptoms is variable but is normally two to eight
weeks in humans. Incubation periods as short as five days or over one year have
been reported. The incubation period for animals also varies. It may range from
12 days to a year after exposure, but is most common within 30-60 days.
What should you do if you are bitten by any
The first step in rabies prevention is to promptly wash the
wound with plenty of soap and warm water. See your doctor
immediately for medical treatment. If circumstances of the
exposure warrant, the rabies vaccine will be given. The vaccine
is a series of five shots given in the arm (or thigh for small
children) on days 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28 upon seeking medical care.
Rabies immune globulin is also given along with the day 0
should be consulted following any exposure to a bat in the home
when it is not certain if a bite has occurred and this animal
cannot be properly tested.
should be done with the biting animal?
If acting normally,
dogs, cats and ferrets may be observed for 10 days from the day of the bite. If
these animals stay healthy after 10 days, they were not infectious at the time
of the bite. Observation for 10 days is not an option for animals other than
normally acting domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets. A veterinarian and local
health authority can also be consulted to advise further action. Wild animals
should be humanely killed and the head taken to a laboratory for rabies testing.
If an animal must be killed to prevent its escape, care should be taken not to
damage the brain.
What can communities
do to control rabies?
should be restrained and leashed when in public.
ownerless dogs should be impounded.
All dogs and
cats should be registered, licensed, and vaccinated.
vaccination clinics should be developed and supported.
should not be handled or kept as pets.
PA Department of Health
Tom Wolfe, Governor
Levine, Acting Secretary of Health
Department of Health is an equal opportunity provider of grants,
contracts, services, and employment.
The information on
this page is supported by the Preventive Health and Health
Services Block Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and
PA Department of
P.O. Box 90, Harrisburg, PA 17108