Treatment for Rabies

If a rabid animal bites an unvaccinated cat or dog, the bitten cat or dog must be quarantined immediately. Local health officers determine the length of time and conditions of the quarantine.

If a rabid animal bites a vaccinated cat or dog, the bitten cat or dog should be immediately re-vaccinated and observed for up to 60 days—depending on local regulations.

If a vaccinated cat or dog bites a person, the animal should be quarantined for 10 days, to be observed for signs of rabies. If it shows signs of rabies within 10 days, it should be euthanized and submitted for rabies testing—the virus likely was present in the saliva when the bite occurred. If the animal remains healthy for 10 days, it may not have been infected when the person was bitten.

If a stray or unvaccinated cat, dog, or other animal bites a person, the animal should be immediately euthanized and submitted for rabies testing. Unvaccinated people should receive postexposure treatment within 48 hours.

Each year in the United States, bout 40,000 people receive postexposure treatment. This treatment involves immediate cleansing of the wound and injection of human rabies immune globulin into the wound site and one other site (e.g., the buttocks). At the same time, a series of five injections of vaccine are administered. The local public health official should also be notified.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 20 Feb 2015