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Bucks County Health Department

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Bureau of Environmental Health

Rabies Information

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals which is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.  The virus infects the central nervous system causing a variety of symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.  As the infection continues people may experience insomnia, anxiety, confusion, partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increase salivation, difficulty swallowing, and fear of water.  The infection, if not treated properly, leads to death.  

Human rabies deaths in the United States are rare due to the rabies vaccine and immune globulin.  There is no standard approved treatment for rabies; however rabies vaccine can be given before or after an exposure to prevent illness.  Rabies vaccination before exposure is recommended only for persons in high risk groups such as veterinarians and animal handlers.  After there has been an exposure (animal bite, contact with saliva) it is important that the exposed person receive postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).  PEP consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and five doses of the rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.  The first dose of the rabies vaccine and the immune globulin should be administered as soon as possible after the exposure.  The additional doses of the vaccine will be given on day 3, 7, and 14th day after the first vaccination.  The vaccination is relatively painless injection given in the arm, much like a flu or tetanus shot.  If you think you need PEP or a vaccination please contact your healthcare provider or local emergency room.

If you are exposed or suspect you have been exposed to a rabid animal:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water
  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • Gather the following information

  • Geographic location of the contact with the animal
  • Type of animal involved
  • How the exposure occurred
  • Vaccination status of the animal (if known)
  • Can the animal safely be captured and tested for rabies


  1. Enjoy wild animals from a distance.  DO NOT handle, feed, or attract wild animals
  2. NEVER bring wild animals into your home, including feral cats
  3. Teach children to NEVER handle unfamiliar animals. “Love your own, leave other animals alone”
  4. Prevent bats from entering living spaces
  5. When traveling abroad, avoid contact with wild animals and dogs in developing countries

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