Rabies is a life-threatening virus that can be transmitted only among mammals. This disease attacks the central nervous system, causing infected animals to act abnormally. If not addressed immediately, this disease can be deadly, but timely treatment after exposure is 100% effective.

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How Is Rabies Spread?

A rabies infection is caused by the rabies virus. The virus lives within the saliva of infected animals who transmit the disease via a bite. Most reported rabies cases are caused by bites from wild animals, including raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Although it’s unusual, other mammals can also carry this disease including rats, squirrels, and groundhogs. Because most pet owners have their pets up to date on their rabies vaccine, it is uncommon for pets to contract or spread the disease.

Symptoms of Rabies

Early symptoms of rabies are similar to the flu and include warmth or tingling at the bite wound site, fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. Those infected may not display symptoms of rabies right away. It can take up to a few months for later symptoms to present, which include confusion, hallucinations, seizures and muscle spasms, irritability, and aggressive behavior.

After the onset of these symptoms, there is no known cure for rabies. Because some people and animals can exhibit these symptoms within days of being bitten, it’s important to act immediately and receive medical attention shortly after contact.

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How to Protect Yourself from Rabies

While early treatment of rabies is effective, it’s important practice safe behaviors that reduce your chances of exposure. Follow these tips:

  • Never approach or feed a wild animal
  • Be careful of pets that you aren’t familiar with
  • Vaccinate your pets
  • If you see an animal acting strangely, call your local animal control center
  • Seek immediate medical treatment for any animal bite
  • Scrub any bite wound immediately with soap and water and flush it thoroughly
  • If you encounter a bat in your home, assume that you may have unknowingly been bitten and seek medical treatment

If you or a loved one have been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. No appointments are needed to visit any UPMC Urgent Care center. Get checked out and receive the treatment you need, when you need it most urgently.