Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
Rabies vaccine is given to people at increased 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.
Preventive Vaccination (No Exposure)
People at increased risk of exposure to rabies, such as veterinarians, animal handlers, rabies laboratory workers, spelunkers, and rabies biologics production workers should be offered rabies vaccine.
The vaccine should also be considered for:
- People whose activities bring them into frequent contact with rabies virus or with possibly rabid animals.
- International travelers who are likely to come in contact with animals in parts of the world where rabies is common.
The pre-exposure schedule for rabies vaccination is three doses, given at the following times:
- 1st dose: As appropriate
- 2nd dose: 7 days after the first dose
- 3rd dose: 21 days or 28 days after the first dose
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 four doses of rabies vaccine – one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh and fourteenth days. They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose.
A person who has been previously vaccinated should get two doses of rabies vaccine – one right away and another on the third day. Rabies Immune Globulin is not needed.