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.
How 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.
What 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.
What 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.
Incidence of 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 rabies.
What You Can Do to Help Control Rabies
Vaccinating Your Pet
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.
How 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 Services). 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.
Observe the Leash Law
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 off property.
Do Not Feed Wildlife
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.
What 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 Services. 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.