Rabies is a preventable viral disease of humans and 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. The US averages 1-3 deaths per year reported due to rabies.  In Montana, the last two rabies deaths known occurred in 1996 and 1997.  Both of these individuals’ deaths were related to bat exposures.  Most human rabies deaths occur outside the US. 

When potential exposures to rabies occur, consultation with your healthcare provider or local public health jurisdiction is recommended. Preventative treatment, known as rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (rPEP), is administered to prevent the development of disease. Please see the table below for information regarding exposures by various animal species.  International exposures to rabies require further assessment by public health. To contact your local health department, please visit the DPHHS website for local public health office contact information.


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What actions are taken after a potential exposure?

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and is almost universally fatal in humans. The virus is slow moving, so there is time to perform animal assessments after a potential exposure. According to CDC, no person in the United States has ever contracted rabies from a dog, cat, or ferret that was confined and observed for 10 days.

Are you from a state other than Montana and have questions?  Please see the CDC website listing state and local rabies consultation contacts.  Management of potential rabies exposures may differ depending on the location, so it is important to consult with your local health contacts.



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The DPHHS CDEpi Section mission is to create, maintain, support, and strengthen routine surveillance and detection systems and epidemiological investigation processes, as well as to expand these systems and processes in response to incidents of public health significance.