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Rabid!! Infection and Treatment

Everyone knows that rabies treatment is painful. Everyone knows infected people can become rabid and infect others.

Again, the problem with Everyone knows is that much of what everyone knows is dated and no longer true. Here’s what you really need to know about rabies infections and treatments.

Untreated rabies infections are 100% fatal in all animals and humans. The untreated progression of the disease is extremely painful. All cases are subject to hallucinations prior to death. Rabies is neither pretty nor peaceful.

If bitten by a suspect rabid animal, initial treatment is immediately washing the wound with soap and water. It's been proven through multiple studies that immediately washing the wound will go a long way towards preventing infection all together.

The decision for after treatment of a possible rabies infection is made by your doctor usually in consultation with your local health department. Other information they will consider will be type of incident {bite, spitting or other contact}, animal species, and local rabid animal history. If the decision to perform treatment is made, treatment is a series of 5 injections over two weeks. This is regardless of the time between the exposure event and start of treatment.

Modern injections are no longer into the torso/stomach area. They are now done into the arm similar to most other vaccine injections. Modern rabies injections are now rarely painful and usually cause only minor pain/discomfort. The first shots are a set of two injections, one of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and the other is the actual rabies vaccine. The succeeding 3 shots are rabies vaccine only on the 3rd, 7th and 14th days from start of treatment.

While undergoing treatment for rabies, there is no risk of infection so normal activities are fine and expected. There is no reason to stay home or be quarantined. As noted in our Rabid! Fact v Fiction post, there are no US cases of human to human transmission though biting or spitting.

Post infection treatment is nearly always successful.

There is no treatment regime for pets which have been bitten by a rabid animal and have not been previously vaccinated. The best that can be done is the pet’s wounds will be washed with soap and water and then caged for several weeks for observation. If signs of infection appear, the pet will be put down.

Prevention works! Be sure your pet is always up to date on their vaccines.

Center for Disease Control {CDC} Rabies homepage


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