You may have been exposed to rabies. It can be carried by skunks, bats, woodchucks, raccoons and foxes. It is less common in dogs; however this is one of the most common bites for which the rabies vaccine is given. When bitten by an infected animal, a person gets rabies from the infected saliva (spit) of the animal. Most people get sick 20 to 90 days after being bitten. This varies based on the location of the bite. The rabies virus affects the brain so the closer to the head the bite occurs, the less time it will take the illness to develop. Once rabies develops it almost always causes death. Because of this, it is often necessary to start treatment whether it is known if the animal is healthy or not.
If bitten by an animal and the animal can be observed to see if it remains healthy, often no further treatment is necessary other than care of the wounds caused by the animal. If the animal has been killed it can be sent into a state laboratory and the brain can be examined to see if the animal had rabies.
There is no known treatment for rabies once the disease starts. This is a viral illness and antibiotics (medications which kill germs) do not help. This is why caregivers use extra caution and treat questionable bites with rabies vaccine to prevent the disease.
RABIES IMMUNIZATION SCHEDULE - POST-EXPOSURE
Be sure to record the dates of your injections for your records.
1st Injection Date________________________
HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS
If you have received a bite from an unknown animal, make sure you know the instructions for follow up. If the animal was sent to a laboratory for examination, make sure you know how you are to obtain your results.
Keep wound clean, dry and dressed as suggested by your caregiver.
Take antibiotics as directed and finish the prescription, even if the wound appears OK.
Keep injured part elevated as much as possible.
Do not resume use of the affected area until directed.
Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.
SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:
You have a fever.
There is nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, chills or a high temperature.
There is unusual behavior including hyperactivity, fear of water (hydrophobia), or fear of air (aerophobia).
If pain prevents movement of any joint.
If you are unable to move a finger or toe.
The wound becomes more inflamed and swollen, or has a purulent (pus-like) discharge.
You notice that there is a foreign substance, such as cloth or a tooth, in the wound.
If a red line develops at the site of the wound and begins to move up the arm or leg.