top of page



Rabies is a viral illness which attacks the central nervous system of any mammal. Rabies is fatal if post-exposure treatment is not started immediately after infection. The most commonly infected animals are bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons but household pets such as cats and dogs can also be infected. All bite wounds should be assumed to be from a rabies-infected animal until proven otherwise. Abnormal behavior may not be readily apparent with animals unfamiliar to the person who was bitten.

Mode of Transmission: Direct contact of infected saliva


Examples of Transmission:

Rabies is spread from infected animals to people or other animals by saliva. One can also get rabies after being bitten or by infected saliva contacting mucous membranes or non-intact skin, such as being licked on the eyes, nose or mouth, or cuts or scrapes, by an infected animal.


Signs and Symptoms: 

Early symptoms include: 

• Abnormal itching at bite site. • Headache, cough, and fever. • Fatigue. 

• Nausea and abdominal pain. • Sore throat. • Lack of appetite. 


Later signs and symptoms include: 

• Dramatic mood swings. • Stiff muscles. • Dilation of pupils.

• Increased saliva production. • Severe and painful throat spasms. 

• Convulsions. • Sensitivity to sound, light, and temperature. 

• Fear of water.



Death from respiratory failure usually occurs within 7 days after symptoms start. There is no known cure once the symptoms of rabies infection have started.


Immediately Following Exposure: 

  • Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Wound cleansing is especially important in rabies prevention since, in animal studies, thorough wound cleansing alone without other post-exposure prophylaxis has been shown to markedly reduce the likelihood of rabies.

  • If possible, irrigate with a virucidal agent such as povidone-iodine solution.

  • Most bite wounds are not closed with stitches as this may increase the chance for infection.

  • Immediately seek medical treatment.


General Post Exposure Treatment 

Rabies post exposure prophylaxis consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine given on the day of the exposure, and then a dose of vaccine given again on days 3, 7, and 14. If a person has previously received post exposure vaccinations or received preexposure vaccinations, only two doses of vaccine (on the day of exposure and then 3 days later) are needed. Human rabies immune globulin is not required. 


Paperwork Required

  1. OC Public Health Communicable Disease Exposure Form (policy 330.96) with Fire incident number on top. Should be faxed while still in the hospital Fax: (714) 564-4050 per county policy MUST REPORT IMMEDIATELY BY TELEPHONE 

OC Public Health Communicable Disease Exposure Form

  1. The City “Report of Employee Injury” form

  2. Medical Service Order- RM -67 (when medical care is required)

  3. Sharps Injury Log


Post Exposure Follow-up: There is no known cure once the symptoms of rabies infection have started.

bottom of page