How can I prevent rabies?

People at high risk of exposure to rabies should get the rabies vaccine before they come in contact with animals that might have rabies. Such people include veterinarians, animal handlers, and all rabies healthcare and scientific workers. Other people should consider pre-exposure vaccination. This group includes people whose activities bring them in frequent contact with animals that could be rabid. Also, international travelers who may visit parts of the world where rabies is common should get a pre-exposure vaccine.

The pre-exposure vaccination schedule consists of 3 doses, given as follows:

  • First dose given.
  • Second dose given 7 days after first dose.
  • Third dose given 21 days or 28 days after first dose.

If the decision is made to begin the rabies vaccine shots and you have never been vaccinated against rabies:

  • You should get 5 doses of the rabies vaccine – first dose immediately, then additional doses 3, 7, 14, and 28 days after the first dose.
  • You should also get a shot of Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose of rabies vaccine.

If you have been previously vaccinated against rabies:

  • You should get 2 doses of the rabies vaccine – the first dose immediately, and the second dose 3 days later.
  • You do not need to get a shot of Rabies Immune Globulin.

What other steps can I take to reduce the chance of exposure to rabies?

  • Make sure your pets are up-to-date with their rabies vaccines. Consider keeping them indoors so that they are less likely to be bitten by other animals that may be infected with rabies.
  • Remind your children never to touch or feed stray dogs, cats, or other animals wandering in your neighborhood or elsewhere. Animals infected with rabies act differently than healthy animals (although in early stages of rabies, they may not show any signs but can still infect you). Wild animals may act tame or move slowly. Other signs of rabies in animals include aggressiveness, increased drooling, problems swallowing, general sickness, difficulty moving/paralysis, and any change from typical animal behavior.
  • Notify your local animal control officers or local health authorities if you see any animals that are behaving in a way that suggests they may have rabies.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/04/2019.

References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies. www.cdc.gov/rabies. Accessed 6/4/2019.
  • World Health Organization. Rabies. www.who.int. Accessed 6/4/2019.

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