Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Human cases of rabies are very rare in the United States. Most human rabies deaths occur internationally.

When potential exposures to rabies occur, consultation with your healthcare provider or local public health jurisdiction is recommended. Visit the CDC Rabies website for guidelines on exposures that occur within the United States. International exposures to rabies require further assessment by public health. The DPHHS website lists the local public health offices.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.