Is the animal available for testing?
A healthy domestic dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be confined and observed for 10 days. Any illness in the animal during the confinement period or before release should be evaluated by a veterinarian and reported immediately to the local public health department.
If signs suggestive of rabies develop, postexposure prophylaxis should be initiated. The animal should be euthanized and its head removed and shipped, under refrigeration, for examination by a qualified laboratory.
If the biting animal is stray or unwanted, it should either be confined and observed for 10 days or be euthanized immediately and submitted for rabies examination.
Skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats that bite humans should be euthanized and tested as soon as possible. The length of time between rabies virus appearing in the saliva and onset of symptoms is unknown for these animals and holding them for observation is not acceptable.
After exposure to wildlife in which rabies is suspected, prophylaxis is warranted in most circumstances. Because the period of rabies virus shedding in wild animal hybrids is unknown, these animals should be euthanized and tested rather than confined and observed when they bite humans.
Vaccination should be discontinued if tests of the involved animal are negative for rabies infection.
- Page last reviewed: April 22, 2011
- Page last updated: April 22, 2011
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