After exposure, rabies travels along the peripheral nerves to the brain. It can be treated during this phase. Generally, no symptoms are presented until after the virus reaches the brain. Once symptoms are presented, death occurs within two weeks, varying by species.
The early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear. Many of these symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
Rabies-related human deaths are very rare in the United States today. Prophylaxis treatment has proven nearly 100% successful in preventing serious illness and mortality in those who are exposed to an at-risk animal. Most human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure.
How to Tell if an Animal is Rabid
It can be difficult to tell if an animal is rabid, especially among bats, which are the most likely source of exposure in Utah. If you encounter bats in your home or stray animals in your neighborhood, call animal control to remove these animals since they may be unvaccinated or ill.
To prevent rabies in your pet, visit the veterinarian on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
While traveling outside of the United States, avoid contact with stray animals, even if they do not seem rabid. If you are bitten by an animal while traveling, seek prompt medical care.
What to Do if There is a Bat or Another Possibly Rabid Animal in Your House
Davis County Animal Control should be notified immediately at 801-444-2200. In most cases the animal control officer will remove the animal. This is considered an emergency. After hours call 911.
- If a bat is found inside one’s house after sleeping or with any young children not under surveillance when the bat entered, it should always be treated as an exposure.
- The bat should be captured and tested for rabies.
- The bat should be stored on ice or under refrigeration, not in a freezer.
All calls concerning human illness due to possible rabies should be transferred to the Davis County Epidemiology and Communicable Disease Division’s on call telephone number, 801-525-5200.
What to Do If You Believe You Were Exposed to a Rabid Animal or Bat
If you are concerned you or a family member was exposed to a potentially rabid animal, please call the Davis County Epidemiology and Communicable Disease Bureau at 801-525-5200.