What is Rabies?
Rabies is a disease that attacks the nervous system of many mammals, including humans. It is caused by the rabies virus. Once symptoms begin, Rabies is nearly always fatal. In humans, it usually takes 3-8 weeks after exposure to the virus to begin having symptoms.
How is Rabies Spread?
Rabies is spread when an infected animal’s saliva or nervous system tissue comes in contact with a break in the skin, (such as a bite, scrape or other wound) or with a mucous membrane (like the inside of the nose, mouth or eyes). The most common way rabies is spread is by a bite from an infected animal. Rabies can also be spread by licks or scratches.
How can I protect my pet?
Rabies virus is shed in the saliva of an infected dog or cat for 5 days before it shows signs of rabies. If a dog or cat bites a human, the law requires it to be quarantined to watch for signs of rabies disease. If your pet has contact with an animal that might have rabies:
- Avoid touching damp or wet areas on your pet’s coat, face, or body
- Put on rubber gloves and cover your arms, legs, and feet before touching your pet
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Avoid “flying fluid” if your pet shakes. It could get into your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Confine your pet in a safe place away from other animals and people
- Keep pets away from children
- Call Animal Control.
- If you have any contact with saliva or tissue from the nervous system, wash thoroughly with soap and water.
- If your pet is up-to-date on its rabies shots, get your pet a booster dose of rabies vaccine within 5 days (120 hours)
- Do not touch an animal that may have rabies. If it is dead, use a shovel or rake to move it. Cover it with a heavy object to keep other animals and people away.
What about Bats?
You cannot tell if a bat has rabies just by looking at it. All contact with bats should be avoided. If a bat is in your home:
- Do not free the bat.
- Do not try to catch the bat.
- Close off the area where the bat is and keep people and pets out.
- Call Animal Control to catch the bat and have it tested for rabies. If the bat does not have rabies, you do not need to be concerned about rabies infection.
Remember, bat bites can’t always be seen by looking at the skin. They are often not painful and might not wake up a sleeping person.
Treatment is called “Post-Exposure Rabies Prophylaxis” or “PEP”. PEP is a series of 4 rabies vaccinations along with rabies immunoglobulin (RIG). It is available at your local hospital’s Emergency Department. *
- Day 0:Treatment of any wounds and a Tetanus shot if it has been more than 5 years since your last one. First dose of rabies vaccine. Rabies immunoglobulin (RIG)**
- Day 3: 2nd dose of rabies vaccine
- Day 7: 3rd dose of rabies vaccine
- Day 14: 4th dose of rabies vaccine
- A 5th dose on day 28 may be needed for those with certain medical conditions
*The Orange County Health Department does not provide Rabies PEP. The Emergency Department is the most reliable source for treatment. Call us for more information on resources for PEP if needed.
**The dosage of RIG is determined by the weight of the person. A 150 pound person would most likely get 3 injections of RIG, 1 in the arm and 1 in each hip or at the site of a bite.
Who needs treatment to prevent Rabies disease?
Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a rabid animal
Anyone who gets saliva or nervous system tissue from a rabid animal in their nose, mouth, eyes or a break in the skin (like a cut, scrape or other wound).
- Anyone who has contact with a bat that cannot be found for testing.
- Anyone who has been asleep or unconscious in a room where a bat has been seen.
- Anyone who is unable to give a reliable account about contact with a bat (like a young child or someone who is mentally impaired) and has been in an area where a bat has been.
Calling for Help
- Animal Control:
- Carrboro Town Limits - (919) 883-8398
- Chapel Hill Town Limits and Remaining County - (919) 942-PETS (7387)
- After hours: 911
- Rabies exposure consultation
- Keeping Safe From Rabies - NC DHHS
- Rabies Brochure - Orange County Health Department
- Rabies Information for Pets and Vets - Orange County Animal Services