Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system
Rabies is a disease of warm-blooded animals
In Maryland, rabies is most often found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, cats, bats, and groundhogs. Other mammals including dogs, ferrets, and farm animals can get rabies if they are not vaccinated. Rabies is rarely reported in rabbits and small rodents, such as squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, and mice. Many recent human rabies cases in the United States have been associated with bats. Although people usually know when a bat has bitten them, bats have small teeth that may not leave marks on the skin.
Rabies is usually spread to humans through the bite of an infected (“rabid”) animal
Other possible exposures include getting infected saliva from a rabid animal into an open wound or in the eyes, nose, or mouth. Rabies is not spread by petting a rabid animal or contact with blood, urine, or feces (stool).
Rabies virus infects the brain and spinal cord of animals and humans
Rabies in animals causes paralysis and changes in behavior. Animals may become very aggressive or unusually friendly. Muscles of the throat and jaw may become paralyzed and cause drooling. Seizures are common. In humans, the virus causes fever, headaches, unusual tingling sensation, confusion, tightening of the throat muscles, hydrophobia (fear of water), and seizures. The disease rapidly progresses to paralysis, coma, and death. Rabies is almost always fatal.
Rabies in humans can be prevented by getting rabies shots
- Rabies shots given soon after an exposure will prevent rabies.
- Pre-exposure rabies vaccinations should be considered if you