What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system and causes disease in the brain. The virus is passed on from infected mammals to humans, usually through the bite of a rabid animal. It is most always fatal once symptoms appear. Human rabies is rare in the United States.
All mammals, including humans can get rabies. In Wisconsin, skunks and bats are by far the most likely to carry the rabies virus, but it sometimes occurs in dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons and livestock.
Signs and Symptoms of Rabies, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Getting Medical Care for a Rabies Exposure
- See a health care provider for medical treatment as soon as possible.
- A doctor will decide the best wound care to help prevent rabies and for good healing.
- You may need a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in 5 years.
- Human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) plus rabies vaccine may be recommended for both bite and non-bite exposures.
If a vaccination is recommended, three more vaccines are needed after the first visit. Finish the vaccine series to be fully protected from rabies.
If you have insurance, call your clinic for a care plan.
If you do not have insurance:
- Urgent care centers are less expensive than the Emergency Room.
- Call first to be sure they have enough vaccine and can see you.
- At Urgent Care, ask to speak to Patient Resources for help with the cost of the visit and follow-up care. Vaccine companies have programs for uninsured and underinsured patients. They give vaccine for free to patients without health insurance who qualify. Ask the clinic if they participate in the assistance program for free vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin. Information and applications, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Protect Yourself from Rabies
People do not need to be vaccinated for rabies unless they are exposed to the virus. The best protection for people against rabies is to get their pets vaccinated.
- Avoid wild animals.
- Avoid any animal with symptoms of rabies.
- Do not approach or touch unfamiliar animals.
- Block any openings into your house that an animal may get in through.
- Keep tamper-proof lids on outside garbage cans so animals are not attracted to your property.
Protect Your Pets from Rabies
Getting your dogs and cats vaccinated is their best protection against the rabies virus. Dogs and cats should be vaccinated when they are five months old and revaccinated a year later. Vaccination shots do not last the lifetime of your pet. Revaccination is required every 1 to 3 years. In Wisconsin, all dogs are required to be vaccinated and in Madison, cats must also be vaccinated.
Keep wild and unfamiliar animals away from your pets.