Munson Health
Rabies Vaccine

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by McCoy K

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is an infection caused by a virus. This virus is almost always fatal unless it is treated before symptoms appear. It affects the central nervous system.
People usually get rabies through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Wild animals in the US that commonly carry the virus include bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Dogs, cats, and other domestic animals can also carry the disease. The rabies virus is found in the saliva, brain, or nervous tissue of infected animals. In the US, rabies in humans is rare. It is more common in other countries.
Rabies symptoms include:
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, and fatigue
  • Pain, tingling, or itching at the site of the bite wound or other site of viral entry
  • An increase in saliva
  • Seizures
  • Painful spasms and contractions of the throat when swallowing
  • Erratic, excited, or bizarre behavior
  • Paralysis
Symptoms may not appear for weeks or months after a bite.
If an animal has bitten you, wash the wound with soap and water right away. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room.


Global Alliance for Rabies Control

Vaccine and Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization



Malerczyk C, Detora L, et al. Imported human rabies cases in Europe, the United States, and Japan, 1990 to 2010. J Travel Med. 2011;18(6):402-407.

McGettigan JP. Experimental rabies vaccines for humans. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2010;9(10):1177-1186.

Rabies. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 9, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2012.

Rabies. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2012.

Rabies vaccine: what you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated October 6, 2009. Accessed November 28, 2012.

3/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Use of a reduced (4-dose) vaccine schedule for postexposure prophylaxis to prevent human rabies. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(2):1.


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