If a healthcare provider strongly suspects rabies
exposure, he or she will order certain tests to help either make a rabies diagnosis
or rule it out. If the animal was captured, it can also be tested.
Testing for Rabies in Humans
Rabies testing in humans involves several tests. No single test is sufficient to diagnose rabies in humans. Rabies tests are performed on samples of saliva, serum (blood), spinal fluid, and skin biopsies of hair follicles at the nape of the neck.
Testing in animals is most frequently done using the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test. This test requires brain tissue from animals suspected of being rabid. The test can only be performed post-mortem (after the animal is dead).
Rapid and accurate testing for rabies in humans and other animals is essential. Within a few hours, a diagnostic laboratory can determine whether or not an animal is rabid and inform the responsible medical personnel. The laboratory results may save a patient from unnecessary physical and psychological trauma, and financial burdens if the animal is not rabid.