Clinical Signs
Treatment and Prevention
If you Suspect Exposure
Vaccines and Protocols
Distribution in Western Canada

 What to Do for Suspected Rabies Exposure

What to do if you suspect rabies: Any evidence of a bite or scratch combined with a history of potential contact with a reservoir animal (an animal that has the ability to contract rabies Ė see Reservoir Host section) should be investigated and treated as a possible rabies case.  Even if the animal appears healthy, and even if you are not entirely sure of contact with the animal, it is better to assume exposure than to assume safety.  In addition, any contact with saliva from an animal suspected of carrying rabies should be investigated.  This is because a rabies infection may occur through saliva contacting cuts, wounds, or mucous membranes (for example the skin in the mouth, nasal cavity, or eyes) (12).  If the animal suspected of transmitting rabies is not available, it is common to assume exposure and begin post exposure treatment.  If the animal is available, testing may be first performed to confirm the presence of rabies.  By the time clinical signs appear it is almost always too late to effectively treat the disease, and the only truly definitive way of diagnosing the virus is using samples from a dead animal or person (brain samples are required) or to wait for the manifestation of clinical signs.  In addition, once signs develop rabies has a near 100% mortality rate.  For this reason it is important not to hesitate with a suspected case.    Post exposure vaccination should ideally be given within two days of exposure.  If you suspect exposure, immediately wash the wound or contact area with soap and water (21) and go to the nearest hospital or clinic.  If a pet is exposed, contact your veterinarian.  Be sure to carefully explain your concerns to your doctor or veterinarian.  Please review the DISTRIBUTION OF RABIES VIRUS IN WESTERN CANADA section for a better idea of prevalence in your province.

If you see an animal exhibiting signs that you suspect is rabies, DO NOT attempt to capture or touch the animal.  Call your local Animal Control or Wildlife Rehabilitation agency immediately, and be sure to identify your suspicions to them immediately.  Warn any nearby people to avoid all contact with the animal.  Remember that the animal may suddenly attempt to attack unprovoked.  Stay indoors and, if possible, keep all pets indoors or well away from the animal.  If a pet is already outside with the animal DO NOT attempt to manually retrieve the pet or put yourself in harmís way to protect the pet.                                

                                                                                                                     Who can be affected by rabies? Carnivores and bats are primarily
 affected by rabies (15), but all mammals are believed to be susceptible
to infection.  See the
DISTRIBUTION OF RABIES VIRUS IN WESTERN CANADA section for information on reservoir hosts in your province, but remember that infection is believed to be possible in all mammalian species