What is rabies?
Rabies is a serious disease. It is caused by a virus. Rabies is mainly a disease of animals. Humans get rabies when they are bitten by infected animals.
At first there might not be any symptoms. But weeks, or even years after a bite, rabies can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, fever, and irritability. These are followed by seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis. Rabies is almost always fatal.
Wild animals, especially bats, are the most common source of human rabies infection in the United States. Skunks, raccoons, dogs, and cats can also transmit the disease.
Human rabies is rare in the United States. There have been only 55 cases diagnosed since 1990. However, between 16,000 and 39,000 people are treated each year for possible exposure to rabies after animal bites. Also, rabies is far more common in other parts of the world, with about 40,000 to 70,000 rabies-related deaths each year. Bites from unvaccinated dogs cause most of these cases. Rabies vaccine can prevent rabies.
Rabies vaccine is given to people at high risk of rabies to protect them if they are exposed. It can also prevent the disease if it is given to a personafterthey have been exposed.
Rabies vaccine is made from killed rabies virus. It cannot cause rabies.
Who should get rabies vaccine and when?
Preventive Vaccination (No Exposure):
Vaccination After an Exposure:
Tell your doctor if ...
Talk with a doctor before getting rabies vaccine if you:
If you have a minor illness, such as a cold, you can be vaccinated. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover before getting a routine (nonexposure) dose of rabies vaccine.If you have been exposed to rabies virus, you should get the vaccine regardless of any other illnesses you may have.
What are the risks from rabies vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. Serious problems from rabies vaccine are very rare.
Other nervous system disorders, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), have been reported after rabies vaccine, but this happens so rarely that it is not known whether they are related to the vaccine.
NOTE: Several brands of rabies vaccine are available in the United States, and reactions may vary between brands. Your provider can give you more information about a particular brand.
What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
What should I look for?
What should I do?
How can I learn more?
Rabies Vaccine Information Statement. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10/6/2009
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.
Selected Revisions: November 1, 2009.
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