Rabies Home > Rabies and Bites

Though there are a few different methods of trasmission for rabies, bites from infected animals are the most common way in which the virus is spread. If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes and get medical help at once. Decisions about rabies treatment often depend on such things as whether you were bitten by a wild or domestic animal, whether the animal appeared healthy, and the vaccination status of the animal. In suspected cases of rabies, bites will be treated and certain tests may be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

Rabies and Bites: An Introduction

If you are bitten by an animal, immediately wash the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes and get medical help at once. Report the bite to your local health department.
 
As part of the medical evaluation, the doctor will assess the risk for rabies exposure. The following information will help the healthcare provider assess the risk:
 
  • The geographic location of the incident
  • The type of animal that was involved
  • The vaccination status of animal
  • How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
  • Whether or not the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies.
     
Steps taken by the healthcare provider will depend on the circumstances of the bite. The healthcare provider may consult state or local health departments, veterinarians, or animal control officers to make an informed assessment of the incident, and to request assistance. The important factor is that you seek care promptly after you are bitten by any animal.
 
If the healthcare provider suspects rabies exposure, he or she will order certain tests to help in diagnosing rabies. If the animal was captured, it can also be tested.
 
(Click Rabies Testing for more information on tests used to diagnose rabies.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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