Rabies is a viral disease, usually occurring among wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. The virus is spread when an infected animal bites another animal and more rarely, when its saliva comes into contact with the eyes, nose, mouth or a wound. Once infected, the rabies virus travels through the nerves into the brain, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death.
Rabid animals do not foam at the mouth. However, a non-domesticated animal that acts abnormally should be suspected of having rabies. The animal may stagger, be aggressive, have difficulty walking or appear to be choking.
Symptoms of rabies are non-specific in humans, but later signs could manifest as insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). If left untreated, the virus is fatal.
Rabies can be prevented in humans by seeking medical care soon after exposure to the virus.
Dog and cat owners should make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated for rabies. Do not approach or play with wild animals or stray domestic animals. Veterinarians, technicians and students, kennel workers, animal control and wildlife personnel, and some other professionals should receive a rabies pre-exposure vaccine regimen.
If you think you’ve been exposed
If you, a family member, or your pet has been bitten by a wild or stray animal, or if an unprovoked bite has occurred with an unvaccinated animal, please contact your local Environmental Health Office for more information.
Georgia Poison Center