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Rabies Information

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Rabies is a virus that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including humans. It is spread by saliva from infected animals, usually from a scratch or bite. Rabies is 100 percent fatal once symptoms appear. The most effective way to control rabies is to have every dog and cat vaccinated.

To learn more about public heath concerns with rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control.

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus (Lyssavirus) found in the saliva if infected animals and is transmitted to other warm-blooded animals, including humans, by a bite, scratch or contamination if an open cut. Rabies is deadly and costly and ranks as one of the top zoonotic diseases in the United States and the world.


The rabies virus infects the central nervous system (CNS), causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset symptoms.


Rabies is a preventable disease. Modern day prophylaxes have proven nearly 100 percent successful. In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they are unaware of their exposure. Over the last 100 years, rabies in the United States has changed dramatically. More than 90 percent of all animal cases reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now occur in wildlife; before 1960, the majority of cases were reported in domestic animals. The principal rabies hosts today are bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes. The decline in cases of domestic animals attributed to animal control programs and vaccination of companion animals.

How can you help

Prevention and education are the keys to keeping you and your family safe from the disease.

Listed below are ways to prevent exposure:

  • Vaccinate your pets. Dogs are required to be vaccinated for rabies at four months of age. Ca ts can be vaccinated as early as eight weeks. The first rabies vaccine is effective for one year, then your pet should be re-vaccinated every three years.
  • Local pet stores and feed stores also provide low-cost vaccination clinics. You may contact them for schedules.
  • Teach your children to respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance. Do not feed or provide harborage to wildlife on your property.
  • Report any bite or scratch caused by teeth from a domestic or wildlife animal to OC Animal Care at (714) 796-6421
  • Report dead, sick, or nesting bats immediately to OC Animal Care at (714) 935-6848. Do not attempt to confine the animals.