What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that attacks the nervous
system. Rabies can be transmitted via contact (typically through a bite) with
saliva or tissues from the nervous system of an infected animal. Rabies is a
zoonotic disease which means it can be passed between species (including
humans). All warm-blooded (homoeothermic) animals can contract the rabies virus
although birds and rodents are rarely infected as they are usually quickly
killed by the bite of another animal.
Does the Disease Progress?
The rabies virus has an incubation period
that can vary from several days to as long as several years but the typical
incubation period is between one and three months. During incubation the virus
multiplies and travels along nerve cells to the brain. Once the virus reaches
the brain it multiplies very quickly and the onset of symptoms begins. Death
typically follows the onset of symptoms within a week.
are the symptoms of Rabies?
Symptoms of rabies can vary in animals and
humans depending on the form of rabies that has been contracted (paralytic or
furious). Furious rabies is the most easily identifiable through unusual
behaviors. Animals may demonstrate extreme aggression and attack behavior and
wild animals will lose their natural fear of humans. The stereotypical “foaming
of the mouth” which occurs as a result of excessive drooling, paralysis of the
jaw and/or throat, and involuntary jaw movements that turns drool into foam may
be present during later stages of the disease. Paralytic rabies is
characterized by weakness, loss of coordination, and eventual paralysis.
Early symptoms of rabies infection in
humans may be very similar to those of the flu and include: weakness, general
discomfort, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, headache, and fever. As the disease
progresses individuals may also experience: anxiety, confusion, agitation,
delirium, insomnia, hallucinations, and abnormal behavior. Once clinical signs
of rabies appear the disease is nearly always fatal.
is the Treatment for Rabies?
In the event of possible rabies exposure
contact your doctor and local Public Health Department. Any wounds should be immediately
washed for 15 minutes with soap and water or povidone iodine to greatly reduce
risk of infection and further treatment should be discussed with your doctor.
Contact your health care provider for further care. Typically, a combination of
human rabies immune globulin and a vaccine will be recommended.
For further information on the rabies virus
please visit the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention website.
Rabies in DuPage County
In DuPage County the most common carrier of rabies is bats.
In 2015 sixteen bats tested positive for rabies and ten tested positive in
2016. Incidence of rabies in domestic animals is very rare. The last confirmed
case in DuPage County occurred in 1967. However in 2016 two outdoor cats, one
in Ogle County, IL and the other in Cass County, MO, tested positive for
What You Can Do to
Help Control Rabies
The spread of rabies is most effectively
controlled by vaccinating your domestic pets against the disease. Keeping your
animal up-to-date with vaccinations is not only essential to prevention, it is
the law. All dogs and cats in DuPage County are required by law to be
currently vaccinated against rabies.
Often Am I Required to Get My Pet Vaccinated?
- Cats and dogs over 4 months of age must be
vaccinated against rabies once a year.
- Three year rabies vaccines are available for
animals over 1 year of age that have a current rabies vaccine.
- Once your pet has been vaccinated you will
receive a rabies vaccination certificate and a rabies tag from your
veterinarian (tags may also be purchased from DuPage County Animal Care &
Control). The certificate is your proof of your pet’s rabies vaccination status
and should be kept in a safe place.
- Attach the tag to your pet’s collar for
identification and proof of vaccination. Your
pet must wear the tag anytime it is off your property.
Citations for failure to vaccinate your
pet, register your pet, or display your pet's rabies tag can result in fines starting at $175.00.
There are also rabies vaccines approved for ferrets, horses, swine, sheep, and
cattle. While not required by law, they could save your pet's life.
If you are having difficulty with the cost
of veterinary care for your pet please visit the links below for low cost
spay/neuter/vaccine clinics in the area.
Do not allow your pets to roam at large. Not only is this the law in
DuPage County, it will help decrease the risk of your pet being exposed to
rabies. All pets must be confined to your home or yard or kept on a leash when
Discourage wild animals from coming into your yard or house. Do not leave
trash exposed, be sure all trash is kept in sealed bins. Do not feed your pets
outside or store pet food outside unless it is well secured. Do NOT feed wildlife! Doors, windows,
porches, basements, attics, chimneys, and outbuildings should be secured to
prevent animal access.
For tips on discouraging wildlife from entering your yard please contact
Willowbrook Wildlife Center at: 630.942.6200.
to do if an Animal Bites
All animal bites to humans that occur in
DuPage County must be reported to our office. By law, any time a domestic
animal bites a human outside of their immediate family in DuPage, it must be
observed by a licensed veterinarian for rabies**. The owners of biting animals
are notified of this responsibility by DuPage County Animal Care and Control.
Veterinarians notify us when owners bring their animals in for the observation.
Owners who do not comply are cited and must appear before a judge to answer the
charge. Fines start at $175.00.
Any time a wild animal bites a human in DuPage, it must be euthanized. A sample
of brain tissue is transported to the Illinois Department of Public Health
virology lab to be tested for the presence of the virus.
**Bites by birds, caged rabbits, caged rodents (mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters,
guinea pigs, etc.) and currently-vaccinated police and registered guard dogs
that bite in the line of duty, do not require a rabies observation.