Rabies and Animal Bite Exposure

Rabies and Animal Bite Exposure

PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET

What is Rabies?
Rabies is an acute, fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by exposure to rabid animals.

How is the virus 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.

What animals can transmit rabies?
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 do I know if I have been potentially exposed to rabies virus?
A rabies exposure can be defined as a bite or non-bite exposure. A bite exposure includes any penetration of the skin by the teeth of a rabid animal, while in a non-bite exposure, the saliva of an infected animal comes in contact with abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes.

What should I do if I am potentially exposed to rabies?
  • Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water.
  • See your doctor (or go to emergency) immediately for a medical evaluation.
  • Your doctor should clean and evaluate the exposure area, assess the need for anti-rabies treatment, a tetanus-diphtheria booster, and antibiotic treatment.
What is current anti-rabies treatment like?
  • The usual treatment consists of four injections of rabies vaccine over a 14 day period, and immediate administration of rabies immune globulin.
Animal Bite Exposure?
  • Report 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 LCHD by calling (517) 546-9850.

What do I do with an animal that has bitten or scratched a person?
    Consider the type of animal:
  • A healthy domestic cat, dog, or ferret with current rabies vaccine documentation or an unvaccinated domestic animal should be confined to the owner’s home for 10 days for observation. At the end of the observation period the animal should be checked by an animal control officer or a vet and certified free from rabies.
  • If the vaccinated or unvaccinated domestic animal develops symptoms of rabies during the observation period, euthanize and test for rabies immediately.
  • The unvaccinated animal that remains healthy at the end of the observation period should be vaccinated for rabies.
  • A stray domestic animal that appears healthy may be confined for 4 days to await owners claim. If animal not claimed, it may be euthanized and tested for rabies.
  • A stray domestic animal that appears ill should be euthanized and tested for rabies.
  • Captured wild animals should always be euthanized and tested for rabies immediately.  
  • Mice, hamsters, gerbils and other small rodents are not usually tested because the risk of rabies is rare in these animals.  Likewise, the risk of rabies in squirrels and rabbits is very low.