What patient education details should be provided to patients about rabies?

Updated: Jun 21, 2019
  • Author: Sandra G Gompf, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

The general public should be aware of the risk of rabies with wild and feral domestic canine breeds, cats, raccoons, and, in particular, bats, which often appear to be innocuous or produce small injuries that may be dismissed. Bats found in a room with a sleeping child or incapacitated individual should prompt rabies prophylaxis. Animals with rabies may act unusually docile or be found out and about in daylight when otherwise nocturnal, or the animal may be unusually aggressive. Thus, the concept of "unprovoked" versus "provoked" injury is not useful in determining rabies risk. Children should be taught not to pet or handle wild animals. A bat on the ground or easily caught should be considered rabid.

Prompt washing of potentially rabies-exposed wounds or mucosa with soap and water is important and may significantly reduce viral inoculum.

Travelers to areas endemic for rabies and who may participate in activities that may increase the exposure risk (eg, exploring caves or ruins, exposure to wild or feral animals) should seek rabies preexposure prophylaxis or be aware of sites to access reliable postexposure prophylaxis in the area. CDC Travel offers comprehensive guidance based on type of travel, region, and activity for the public and healthcare professionals.


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