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Rabies is a disease that affects the body's central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves). Rabies is caused by a virus. You may get the virus if you come into contact with the saliva or other tissue of an infected animal. Rabies infection usually happens through a bite wound. Animals that may spread rabies include dogs, cats, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats. Rabies develops when the virus enters the skin and goes to the muscles or nerves.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble swallowing or slurred speech.

  • You have double vision, or you see things that are not really there.

  • You begin twitching, have muscle cramps, or have a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You think you were exposed to rabies.

  • You were bitten by an animal.

  • You feel weak, tired, dizzy, confused, restless, or anxious.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.

  • Your signs and symptoms do not get better after treatment.

  • You have questions or concerns about rabies and rabies treatment.


  • Medicines such as the rabies vaccine or immune globulin may be given. These medicines help your body fight the virus and prevent rabies.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent rabies:

  • Ask your healthcare provider about the rabies vaccine. You may need the vaccine if your work puts you at risk for rabies. You may also need shots if you plan to travel to places where the risk for rabies is high. Ask for more information on rabies shots.

  • Avoid contact with wild animals. Do not approach any tame or wild animal that you do not know. Do not try to take them home with you. Cover windows and other openings in your home with screens so wild animals cannot get inside.

  • Get medical care if you get bitten by an animal. Do this even if the wound is very small.

  • Get your pet vaccinated against rabies. You will need to do this every 3 years or as directed by your veterinarian.

What to do if an animal bites you:

Clean the bite wound well and cover the wound with a clean bandage. Then contact your healthcare provider.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Rabies (Discharge Care)