Rabies is a disease of the nervous system caused by a
virus. It usually results from an exposure to an
animal with rabies.
Rabies in humans is fatal almost
100% of the time.
When can humans get rabies?
Although rabies among humans is rare in the United
States, anyone can get rabies after an exposure to a
Rabies is spread when the virus in an animal’s saliva or nervous tissue (including brain, nerves, and spinal fluid), enters a person’s open cuts, wounds, mouth or eyes.
chance rabies will occur depends on the type of contact or “exposure.”
What is a possible exposure to rabies?
Two types of exposures to rabid animals could allow transmission of the disease.
A bite exposure is any puncture of the skin by teeth.
exposure occurs when saliva, brain tissue or spinal
fluid from an animal with rabies enters any scratch,
abrasion, open wound, eyes, or the mouth.
Petting a rabid animal or being exposed to its blood, urine, or feces is not considered an exposure.
What animals get rabies?
Only mammals are infected with rabies; however,
some mammals are more likely to be infected with
rabies virus than others.
The following animals are more likely to be infected with rabies virus:
In Southern Nevada, bats are the most likely mammals to be infected with rabies.
Domestic animals are less likely to acquire and transmit rabies virus:
Some animals are not known to transmit rabies virus:
Rodents such as
Rabbits and hares
How can you tell if an animal is rabid?
Although some animals with rabies look and act
normal, most develop one of two forms of the
One form is “furious rabies” in which the
infected animal is easily excited or angered.
other is “dumb rabies” in which the infected animal
becomes paralyzed (has difficulty moving).
Usually animals infected with rabies become irritable, restless, and nervous. The only way to tell if an animal has rabies is to kill it in a humane manner and test its brain for the rabies virus.
How long can animals spread rabies?
Rabies in cats and dogs has been well studied by researchers, so we know that they can spread rabies starting a few days before they become ill and during their illness. The period of infectivity is believed to be similar for wild animals.
Domestic animals infected with rabies usually die within seven days of illness onset.
What should you do if you think you might have been exposed to a rabid animal?
We will often recommend euthanizing the wild animal so its brain tissue can be tested to determine whether it was rabid.
If a domestic animal bites a human or pet, identify the animal, its owner, and the animal’s rabies vaccination status.
Contact the appropriate Animal Control agency immediately. The biting animal should be quarantined for observation.
If the animal is still alive and appears healthy ten days after the bite occurred, then it was not infected with rabies at the time of the bite and therefore could not have transmitted the disease.
Rabies treatments are rarely necessary following bites from domestic animals.
Immediately wash all bite wounds and scratches
thoroughly with soap and water.
See a doctor or call the health district as
soon as possible.
After an exposure to a proven or suspected rabid animal, a series of preventive treatments should be started that includes human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and the Human Diploid Cell (HDCV) rabies vaccine.
The first medical evaluation and treatment most often takes place in an emergency department, where HRIG and HDCV are most likely to be available.
For specific advice about whether treatment is recommended, contact or have your doctor contact the Office of Epidemiology.
How to catch a bat safely
To watch a video, click on one of the "Catch the Bat!" links on the New York State Department of Health's rabies webpage or read the section "Safely Capture Bats and Dispose of Dead Bats" on the CDC's rabies webpage.
If you have captured a bat (dead or alive) that might have bitten a human or pet, call your local animal control office for advice on whether/how to get it tested for rabies.
What should you do if you think your pet might have been exposed to a rabid animal?
Immediately wash all bite wounds and scratches thoroughly with soap and water.
See your veterinarian as soon as possible.
If your pet’s rabies vaccination is not current, he or she might be at risk of developing rabies and will need to be confined or quarantined for an extended period of time and should be vaccinated immediately.