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Rabies is a deadly viral disease that infects the brain and spinal cord of mammals. The virus is spread from exposure to saliva or nervous tissue from an infected animal, usually through a bite. Scratches or saliva contact with a mucous membrane are also considered exposure risks. Rabies is preventable if proper treatment is given before symptoms occur, but is fatal once symptoms are present.

The primary public health concern is to prevent people from developing rabies after possible exposure. Any bite or scratch from an animal should be checked by a physician and reported to the county health department.

For more information on rabies, view the most frequently asked questions.

Rabies in Alabama

In Alabama, there are two different strains of rabies virus: the raccoon variant and the bat variant. The raccoon strain can infect other wildlife, such as foxes, coyotes, and skunks; but more importantly, it can infect people's pets. Vaccination of dogs, cats, and ferrets is required by law. Vaccinations for other species, such as horses and livestock are also available and recommended. Vaccinating animals helps ensure protection should they unknowingly be exposed to a rabid animal.

The bat variant can also infect pets or people. Bats present a unique risk of rabies because their bites may be unknown or leave insignificant marks. If you should have bats in your house or bedroom, please contact your physician or local health department for consultation.

Quick Steps for Prevention

  1. Avoid being bitten or scratched. Get medical attention immediately and report to the local health department.
  2. Don't approach stray or injured animals or wildlife.
  3. Don't handle bats.
  4. Keep your pets and livestock vaccinated.
  5. Keep pets properly confined or on leashes.
  6. Avoid leaving trash or leftover pet food uncovered, which may attract wildlife.
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Page last updated: June 17, 2024