Rabies in Humans

Rabies and Pets

Wild Animals and Rabies

Bats and Rabies

Travel and Rabies

Human Rabies

1. Q: How do people get rabies?

A: People usually get get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

2. Q: Can I get rabies in any way other than an animal bite?

A: Non-bite exposures to rabies are very rare. Scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material (such as brain tissue) from a rabid animal constitute non-bite exposures. Occasionally reports of non-bite exposure are such that postexposure prophylaxis is given.

Inhalation of aerosolized rabies virus is also a potential non-bite route of exposure, but other than laboratory workers, most people are unlikely to encounter an aerosol of rabies virus.

Other contact, such as petting a rabid animal or contact with the blood, urine or feces (e.g., guano) of a rabid animal, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for prophylaxis.

3. Q: How soon after an exposure should I seek medical attention?

A: Medical assistance should be obtained as soon as possible after an exposure. There have been no vaccine failures in the United States (i.e., someone developed rabies) when postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) was given promptly and appropriately after an exposure.

4. Q: What medical attention do I need if I am exposed to rabies?

A: One of the most effective methods to decrease the chances for infection involves thorough washing of the wound with soap and water. Specific medical attention for someone exposed to rabies is called postexposure prophylaxis or PEP. In the United States, postexposure prophylaxis consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a 28-day period. Rabies immune globulin and the first dose of rabies vaccine should be given by your health care provider as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses or rabies vaccine should be given on days 3, 7, 14, and 28 after the first vaccination. Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine.