Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30333
TTY: (888) 232-6348
Rabies is a preventable viral disease found in mammals that affects the nervous system. If not treated, Rabies almost always results in fatal encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and its membranes. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Wild animals such as foxes, raccoons, skunks, and bats are the most common carriers.
This is how the rabies virus works:
- A mammal is bitten by another mammal that has the rabies virus in its saliva.
- The rabies virus enters the body at the bite area and spreads through the nervous system to the brain.
- The virus incubates in the animal's body for about 3-12 weeks, showing no signs of illness yet.
- When the virus reaches the brain, it multiplies quickly and travels to the saliva. The animal begins to show sign of the disease.
- The animal usually dies within about a week of showing symptoms.
In the beginning, Rabies symptoms are similar to the flu:
As the virus progresses more symptoms occur:
- Abnormal behavior
It is important to get treatment as soon as possible if you suspect you have been bitten by a rabid animal because once a person begins to show signs of the disease, survival is rare.
If you suspect you have been exposed to an animal with rabies:
- Treat the wound by thoroughly washing it with soap and warm water and applying an antiseptic.
- If possible to do so without further endangering yourself, confine the animal and call Santa Rosa County Animal Control Services at (850) 983-4680.
- See your health care provider or nearest Emergency Room for further wound care including a tetanus shot, if necessary, and/or recommendations concerning post exposure rabies treatment.
- If rabies treatment is recommended, the Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County will work with you and your provider to determine the best plan for completing the rabies vaccine series.
There are many things you can do to prevent exposure to rabies:
- Do not feed wild animals or approach any wild animal or stray pet.
- Be a responsible pet owner by keeping all dogs, cats, and ferrets current in their rabies vaccinations.
- Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come into contact with wild animals.
- Do not leave pet food or any food outside that may attract wild animals.
- Spay or neuter your pets.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
More information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Rabies.