Rabies Vaccinations

Rabies is a vaccine preventable disease caused by a virus. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. However, rabies exposure can also occur by comming in contact with saliva or brain/nervous tissue of an infected animal. All species of mammals may be suseptible to rabies infection however, only a few species are important as carriers of the disease. In the United States these animals include:
  • Skunks 
  • Racoons
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes, and
  • Bats

Following exposure and infection the rabies virus affects the brain and central nervous system. Once symptoms begin to show the infection is untreatable and usually fatal within days.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies:

The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to those of the flu including general weakness or discomfort, fever, and headache. These symptoms may last for days. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion,  partial paralysis, delirium, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). With the onset of symptoms survival is rare and death usually occurs within days.
Rabies Vaccination:
If you are bitten by an animal wash the wound immediately with soap and water and contact your doctor. Your doctor, in consultation with your state or local health department, will decide if you need rabies vaccinations. Decisions to start vaccinations, known as postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), will be based on the type of exposure and the animal you were exposed to as well as other factors. 
Postexposure vaccinations consist of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. The immune globulin (Ig) and one dose of rabies vaccine is administered as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses of rabies vaccine are then scheduled and given on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination. Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, much like a flu shot. 

Preexposure vaccinations are recomended for people who are at an increased risk for exposure to rabies. These individuals may include veterinarians, animal control personnel, wildlife officers, or travelers to certain other countries. Preexposure rabies vaccinations consist of three injections of vaccine administered in the arm on days 0, 7, and 21 or 28. 

Preexposure vaccination does not eliminate the need for additional therapy after a rabies exposure. However, it simplifies exposure management by eliminating the need for rabies immune globulin and decreasing the number of doses of rabies vaccine needed. 

Management and Costs: 
It is important that rabies vaccinations stay on schedule as indicated above. Staff at the health department considers this schedule when starting rabies management so no vaccinations are scheduled on holidays or weekends. 

Rabies vaccines are very expensive. An adult requiring postexposure vaccinations may incur costs of approximately $2,000. However, the health department can bill most insurance companies and we do accept credit cards. In addition, our billing department will work out a payment schedule as necessary to not incur hardship and without interest. 

Last Update: 12/11/2011