RABIES VACCINE

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. 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 months after a bite, rabies can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, fever, and irritability. These are followed by seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis. Human rabies is almost always fatal.

Wild animals-especially bats most common source of human rabies infection in the United States. Skunks, raccoons, dogs, cats, coyotes, foxes and other mammals 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 vaccinated each year as a precaution after animal bites. Also, rabies is far more common in other parts of the world, with about 40,000 - 70,000 rabies-related deaths worldwide each year. Bites from unvaccinated dogs cause most of these cases.

Rabies vaccine can prevent rabies

2. Rabies vaccine

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 person after they have been exposed.

Rabies vaccine is made from killed rabies virus. It cannot cause rabies.

3. Who should get rabies vaccine and when?

Preventive Vaccination (No Exposure)

The pre-exposure schedule for rabies vaccination is 3 doses, given at the following times:

For laboratory workers and others who may be repeatedly exposed to rabies virus, periodic testing for immunity is recommended, and booster doses should be given as needed. (Testing or booster doses are not recommended for travelers.) Ask your doctor for details.

Vaccination After an Exposure

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal, or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, should clean the wound and see a doctor immediately. The doctor will determine if they need to be vaccinated.

A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get 4 doses of rabies vaccine - one dose right away, and additional doses on the 3rd, 7th, and 14th days. They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the fi rst dose.

A person who has been previously vaccinated should get 2 doses of rabies vaccine - one right away and another on the 3rd day. Rabies Immune Globulin is not needed.

4. Tell your doctor if . . .

Talk with a doctor before getting rabies vaccine if you:

If you have a minor illnesses, 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 (non-exposure) 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.

5. What are the risks from rabies vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause 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 asGuillain Barrι syndrome (GBS), have beenreported after rabies vaccine, but this happensso rarely that it is not known whether they arerelated 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.

6. What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?

What should I look for?

What should I do?

VAERS does not provide medical advice.

7 How can I learn more?