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What care will I receive?

Wound Care

Regardless of the risk of rabies, bite wounds can cause serious injury such as nerve or tendon laceration and local and system infection. Your doctor will determine the best way to care for your wound, and will also consider how to treat the wound for the best possible cosmetic results.

For many types of bite wounds, immediate gentle irrigation with water or a dilute water povidone-iodine solution has been shown to markedly decrease the risk of bacterial infection.

Wound cleansing is especially important in rabies prevention since, in animal studies, thorough wound cleansing alone without other postexposure prophylaxis has been shown to markedly reduce the likelihood of rabies.

You should receive a tetanus shot if you have not been immunized in ten years. Decisions regarding the use of antibiotics, and primary wound closure should be decided together with your doctor.

Rabies Postexposure Vaccinations

Postexposure Vaccinations

Rabies postexposure vaccinations consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine given on the day of the exposure, and then again on days 3, 7, and 14. The vaccine is given in a muscle, usually in the upper arm. This set of vaccinations is highly effective at preventing rabies if given as soon as possible following an exposure.

If a person has previously received postexposure vaccinations or received preexposure vaccinations, only two doses of vaccine (on the day of exposure and then 3 days later) are needed. Human rabies immune globulin is not required. Your doctor and local health department will be able to guide you through the process.

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For people who have never been vaccinated against rabies previously, postexposure anti-rabies vaccination should always include administration of both passive antibody and vaccine.

The combination of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and vaccine is recommended for both bite and nonbite exposures, regardless of the interval between exposure and initiation of treatment.

People who have been previously vaccinated or are receiving preexposure vaccination for rabies should receive only vaccine.

Adverse reactions to rabies vaccine and immune globulin are not common. Newer vaccines in use today cause fewer adverse reactions than previously available vaccines. Mild, local reactions to the rabies vaccine, such as pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site, have been reported. Rarely, symptoms such as headache, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, and dizziness have been reported. Local pain and low-grade fever may follow injection of rabies immune globulin.

The vaccine should be given at recommended intervals for best results. Talk to your with your doctor or state or local public health officials if you will not be able to have shot at the recommended interval. Rabies prevention is a serious matter and changes should not be made in the schedule of doses.

People cannot transmit rabies to other people unless they themselves are sick with rabies. The prophylaxis you are receiving will protect you from developing rabies, and therefore you cannot expose other people to rabies. You should continue to participate in your normal activities.

Rabies Vaccines and Immunoglobulin Available in the United States
Type Name Route Indications
Human Diploid Cell Vaccine (HDCV) Imovax® Rabies Intramuscular Preexposure or Postexposure
Purified Chick Embryo Cell Vaccine (PCEC) RabAvert® Intramuscular Preexposure or Postexposure
Human Rabies Immune Globulin Imogam® Rabies-HT Local infusion at wound site, with additional amount intramuscular at site distant from vaccine Postexposure
Human Rabies Immune Globulin HyperRab TM S/D Local infusion at wound site, with additional amount intramuscular at site distant from vaccine Postexposure
Rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) schedule
Vaccination status Intervention Regimen*
Not previously vaccinated Wound cleansing All PEP should begin with immediate thorough cleansing of all wounds with soap and water. If available, a virucidal agent (e.g., povidine-iodine solution) should be used to irrigate the wounds.
  Human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) Administer 20 IU/kg body weight. If anatomically feasible, the full dose should be infiltrated around and into the wound(s), and any remaining volume should be administered at an anatomical site (intramuscular [IM]) distant from vaccine administration. Also, HRIG should not be administered in the same syringe as vaccine. Because RIG might partially suppress active production of rabies virus antibody, no more than the recommended dose should be administered.
  Vaccine Human diploid cell vaccine (HDCV) or purified chick embryo cell vaccine (PCECV) 1.0 mL, IM (deltoid area†), 1 each on days 0,§ 3, 7 and 14.
Previously vaccinated** Wound cleansing All PEP should begin with immediate thorough cleansing of all wounds with soap and water. If available, a virucidal agent such as povidine-iodine solution should be used to irrigate the wounds.
  HRIG HRIG should not be administered.
  Vaccine HDCV or PCECV 1.0 mL, IM (deltoid area†), 1 each on days 0§ and 3.

* These regimens are applicable for persons in all age groups, including children. 

The deltoid area is the only acceptable site of vaccination for adults and older children. For younger children, the outer aspect of the thigh may be used. Vaccine should never be administered in the gluteal area. 

§ Day 0 is the day dose 1 of vaccine is administered. 

For persons with immunosuppression, rabies PEP should be administered using all 5 doses of vaccine on days 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28. 

** Any person with a history of pre-exposure vaccination with HDCV, PCECV, or rabies vaccine adsorbed (RVA); prior PEP with HDCV, PCECV or RVA; or previous vaccination with any other type of rabies vaccine and a documented history of antibody response to the prior vaccination.

Source: Use of a Reduced (4-Dose) Vaccine Schedule for Postexposure Prophylaxis to Prevent Human Rabies: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices MMWR  2010:59(RR02);1-9.

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