Rabies Home > Rabies Diagnosis

In the case of rabies, diagnosis often begins with assessing the risk for rabies exposure based on information such as the location where the incident occurred, the type of animal involved, the vaccination status of the animal, and whether or not the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies. In the event that exposure to the virus is strongly suspected, there are certain tests that your doctor can order to help make a rabies diagnosis.

Rabies Diagnosis: An Introduction

If you are bitten by an animal, seek medical attention immediately. This will allow the doctor to assess the risk for rabies exposure and begin rabies treatment, if necessary.

Rabies Diagnosis: Assessing the Risk

In order to make a rabies diagnosis, 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
  • How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
  • The vaccination status of animal
  • 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 will consult state or local health departments, veterinarians, or animal control officers to make an informed assessment of the incident and to request assistance. Again, it is important to seek care promptly after you are bitten by any animal.
If the healthcare provider has a high suspicion for 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 in humans and animals.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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