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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.

Spotting Rabies

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.

Prevention Tips

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 Have Been Exposed

If you, a family member or a pet may have been exposed to rabies, through contact with a stray animal or an unprovoked bite from an unvaccinated animal, please contact local Environmental Health Office or your local animal control office for more information.

After Hours Contact
Georgia Poison Center
Atlanta: 404.616.9000
Statewide: 800.282.5846