Rabies and Animal Bite Exposure

Rabies and Animal Bite Exposure

Public Health Fact Sheet

What is Rabies?
Rabies is a fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by exposure to rabid animals.  Wild animals most likely to harbor rabies are the bat, skunk, fox, wolf, and raccoon.  It is possible, but not as likely, for dogs, cats, ferrets, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, swine, bobcats, and coyotes to be rabid.

How are Rabies transmitted?
The rabies virus is present in the saliva of an infected animal. The virus is spread through a bite or scratch from an infected animal or through contact with intact mucous membranes. It is also possible, but rare, for people to get rabies from non-bite exposures, which can include scratches, abrasions, or open wounds that are exposed to saliva or other potentially infectious material from a rabid animal.

What animals can transmit rabies?
Wild animals most likely to harbor rabies are the bat, skunk, fox, wolf, and raccoon.  

What should I do if I am potentially exposed to rabies?
Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water.  See your doctor or the emergency room immediately for evaluation. You should be evaluated for the need for rabies vaccinations as well as anti-rabies treatment.  The usual regimen consists of 4 vaccines over a 14 day period and an immediate administration of rabies immune globulin. Report any animal bite exposures to the Livingston County Animal Control (517) 546-2154, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  If a potential exposure occurs after hours or on a weekend, call 911.  Consultation regarding animal bite exposures are available through Livingston County Health Department by calling (517) 546-9850.

Additional information is available on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/rabies/

Symptoms of Rabies

  • Early signs include flu-like symptoms including weakness, fever, headache, and malaise
  • Later signs include delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, confusion, and agitation
  • Rabies is nearly always fatal

February 2020