• 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. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain.
  • The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include anxiety, hallucinations, increase in saliva, partial paralysis, and fear of water. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
  • Human rabies is almost always fatal.
  • Wild animals – especially bats – are the 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.
  • Although human rabies is rare in the United States, tens of thousands of 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 59,000 rabies-related deaths worldwide each year. Bites from unvaccinated dogs cause most of these cases.
  • Rabies vaccine can prevent rabies, even when given in the days after a bite from an infected animal.

Rabies Vaccine Schedule

Rabies Vaccine Schedule

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal, or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, should see a doctor immediately. The doctor will determine if they need to be vaccinated. The vaccine is only routinely recommended before any exposure to rabies for people in groups at high-risk of exposure (for example, veterinarians, certain travelers, and people who are routinely exposed to bats).


Rabies: Questions and Answers

Information about the disease and vaccines, from Immunize.org.

Partner Resources

Travelers’ Health: Rabies

Access the rabies chapter of the CDC Yellow Book for travel-associated infections and diseases. CDC also has a Destinations tool to find the latest health and vaccine information by country.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
A Look at Each Vaccine: Rabies Vaccine

Questions and answers about rabies and vaccines from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


Warning: Some of the images are graphic.

View All Rabies Photos

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