FAQ’s About Rabies

What is rabies and where is it found?

Rabies is a viral infection of mammals, usually transmitted by an infected animal’s bite. Rabies is prevalent throughout North America and is diagnosed every year in Delaware County.

Which animals can be infected with rabies?

Wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, fox’s and coyotes can have rabies. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, ferrets, cows and horses can also have rabies.

What are the signs of rabies in an animal?

The first sign of rabies in an animal is usually a change in the animal’s behavior. The rabies virus attacks the part of the brain that controls behavior. The animal may become unusually aggressive or unusually tame. Staggering, convulsions, spitting, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are sometimes noted. Many animals develop a change in voice. If your pet appears to be sick or acts abnormally, suspect rabies.

How can someone tell if a bat has rabies?

Rabid bats may show abnormal behavior, such as outdoor activity during daylight; rabid bats may be grounded, paralyzed or may bite a person or animal. Not all rabid bats act abnormally, but bats that do are more likely to have rabies.

Are rabid bats a threat to human health?

Yes, although human rabies deaths are now rare in the United States. Since 1990, 21 of the 23 rabies deaths from exposures in the United States were from the bat variant, and only one of these had a reported bite. The only human rabies deaths in New York State over the past 40 years were a result of exposure to a bat rabies virus. Bats teeth are tiny and may not leave marks if you are bitten by one. This is exceptionally dangerous if you are sleeping because you may not feel them when they bite you, and there would be no proof of a bite. If you enter a room where there is bat in a room or on the ground next to a sleeping individual, an unattended small child, a person under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, or a person with other sensory or mental impairment, it is important that you contact Delaware County Public Health Services immediately because rabies post-exposure treatment may be considered for the individual.

Watch a video on how to catch the bat video here.

Is rabies always fatal?

Once symptoms occur, rabies is almost always fatal in both animals and people. The incubation period, the period of time between exposure and onset of disease, ranges from two weeks to many months. Once rabies has progressed from the incubation period to the illness phase, treatment is ineffective; but because of long incubation, intervention following a bite can prevent rabies in humans. Periodic vaccinations in dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock also protect these animals against the disease, however, there is no post-exposure intervention available for animals.

Can rabies be prevented for a human that is exposed?

YES! If you are exposed to a rabid animal, your medical provider will give you rabies immune globulin followed by a series of five shots of human rabies vaccine to prevent rabies disease. These shots are given in the arm muscle. Treatment MUST begin RIGHT AWAY!

How would I go about capturing a bat that is loose in my home?

To capture the bat, close windows, room and closet doors, turn on the lights if the room is dark and wait for the bat to land. Wearing gloves, cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container. Slide a piece of cardboard under the can, trapping the bat. Tape the cardboard tightly to the can. Immediately contact your Delaware County Public Health to determine if rabies examination of the bat is recommended.

For more information and interesting facts, please visit the CDC website here.

Follow this guide to protect you, your family and your pets from rabies:

  • Avoid all contact with unfamiliar animals
  • Keep vaccinations up to date for all pets
  • Never handle, adopt wild animals, or bring them into your home
  • Prevent bats from entering your home
  •  Don’t let your pets run free or leave them unattended. Keep them indoors at night. Feed pets indoors, so outdoor food dishes won’t attract strange animals.
  • Tightly cap garbage cans.
  • Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if they are bitten by an animal.
  • Report all animal bites to DCPHNS

If you or your pet is bitten by an animal:

  • Wash the wound immediately with soap and water
  • Call you doctor or go to the nearest emergency room- you may need a rabies vaccination
  • Call Delaware County Public Health Services right away to assure needed services for you and/or your pet.



The Centers for Disease Control