What is it? Rabies is a preventable viral disease that affects the brain and ultimately leads to death if not treated in time.
How is it spread? The rabies virus is typically spread through the saliva of an infected host. In most cases, this occurs via a bite from a rabid animal. Of note, the virus is not spread through contact with the blood, urine, or feces of an infected animal.
Who carries rabies? While any mammal may carry rabies (including domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, and ferrets), rabies is carried mainly through wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats (especially in the United States).
What does a rabid animal looks like? A rabid animal’s behavior may differ based on the progression of the disease. While tame behavior is possible, strange or abnormal behavior may also occur. This includes aggression, avoidance of food and water, foaming at the mouth, and irregular movements.
What does an infected human look like? Initial symptoms look very similar to the flu (generalized weakness, fever, headache). As the disease progresses, a person may experience delirium, insomnia, and hallucinations. Note: once clinical signs or symptoms arise, the disease is almost always fatal.
First Aid for a person/pet? Immediately wash the bite area with soap and warm water. If possible, use a Povidone-iodine solution to cleanse the wound. Then call either your doctor or the Georgia Poison Center for further instructions.
Treatment Treatment for rabies is very effective when initiated promptly. It consists of 2 components:
- Human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) – a one-time shot given as soon as possible to a previous unvaccinated person. This helps the individual’s body start attacking the virus.
- Rabies vaccine – this consists of a 4-shot regimen beginning immediately and then continued on days 3, 7, and 14 after the initial vaccination.
Prevention for your pets
- Keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs—as required by Georgia law.
- Attempt to keep pets under direct supervision.
- Contact animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood.
Prevention for yourself and your family
- Do not leave garbage or pet food outside where it could attract stray or wild animals.
- Consider preexposure vaccination before traveling to locales where dog rabies is common (see CDC website for further details) or if your planned activities may bring you in contact with wild or unknown animals.
- If you see a sick or wounded animal, do not try to touch or move it. Instead contact your local animal control office.
- Do not keep wild animals as pets.
- Train all children to stay clear of stray or wild animals.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Rabies
- Georgia Department of Public Health – Rabies
- Georgia Department of Public Health – Dog Bite Prevention