What Is Rabies?
Rabies (ray-beez) is a deadly disease caused by a virus found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite or possibly by saliva contamination of an open cut or the eyes. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and, if left untreated, ultimately causes disease in the brain and death.1,2
Only mammals, including people, can get rabies. Rabies occurs most often in wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes. Wild animals account for 92% of rabies cases in the United States. Cats account for the vast majority of domestic animal rabies cases, but farm animals, dogs, and other domestic pets can also become infected. So take measures to keep wild animals from entering houses, barns, and garages. Small rodents such as rats, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels are rarely infected.1,3
Rabid animals are usually vicious and aggressive and may appear to have trouble walking. However, some animals may be rabid even though they appear to be acting normally. People should stay away from all wild and stray animals that are aggressive or appear to be sick to reduce the risk of exposure to rabies.4