Rabies - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do people get rabies?
A: People usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.
Q: What must I do if a dog bites me?
A: Wash the wound area with soap and water and leave it under running tap water for at least ten minutes. Clean with antiseptic and leave the wound clean and open. See your doctor immediately for a rabies vaccine.
Q: How soon after an exposure should I seek medical attention?
A: Medical assistance should be obtained as soon as possible after an exposure. There have been no vaccine failures in the United States when post-exposure prophylaxis was given promptly and appropriately after an exposure.
Q: Will the rabies vaccine make me sick?
A: Adverse reactions to rabies vaccine and human rabies immunoglobulin may be seen. Newer vaccines in use today cause fewer adverse reactions than previously available vaccines. Mild, local reactions to the rabies vaccine, such as pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site, have been reported. Rarely, symptoms such as headache, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, and dizziness have been reported. Local pain and low-grade fever may follow injection of rabies immune globulin.
Q: Should I receive rabies pre-exposure vaccination before traveling to other countries?
A: In most countries, the risk of rabies and the precautions for preventing rabies are the same. However, in some developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, dog rabies may be common and preventive treatment for rabies may be difficult to obtain. If you are traveling to a rabies-endemic country, you should consult your healthcare provider about the possibility of receiving pre-exposure vaccination against rabies.
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