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Rabies is an infection that affects the brain and spine. Rabies is almost always fatal unless treated before symptoms appear.
Rabies is caused by a virus. It is found in infected, warm-blooded animals. Animals that commonly carry the virus include:
The virus is in the saliva, brain, or nerve tissue of infected animals. Humans most often contract rabies through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. The virus may also be passed if infected tissue comes into contact with skin in the eyes, nose, or mouth.
The only risk factor is contact with an infected animal.
In most parts of the US any contact with a bat may be considered a rabies risk factor. Seek medical advice if you find a bat anywhere inside your home.
Symptoms often start within 3-7 weeks. In some cases, the virus can incubate up to one or more years. Death usually occurs within a week after symptoms appear.
Symptoms in humans may include:
- Pain, tingling, or itching at the site of the bite wound or other site of viral entry
- Stiff muscles
- Increased production of thick saliva
- Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, fatigue, nausea
- Painful spasms and contractions of the throat when exposed to water
- Erratic, excited, or bizarre behavior
Symptoms in animals may include:
- Erratic behavior, often overly aggressive or vicious
- Disorientation (for example, nocturnal animal such as a bat or fox appearing in daylight)
If you think you have been exposed to rabies, see a doctor or contact a public health official immediately.
If the animal is available and appears well, it will be kept under observation to monitor i