Rabies Information

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General Information

  • What is rabies?
    Rabies is a disease that is caused by a virus. It affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause death if left untreated.  Rabies in people is very rare in the United States, but rabies in animals - especially wildlife - is common in most parts of the country including Maine. An animal with rabies is called a “rabid” animal.
  • How is rabies spread?
    The rabies virus lives in the saliva, brain and spinal cord (neural tissue) of infected animals. It is spread when a rabid animal bites or scratches a person or animal, or if a rabid animal’s saliva or neural tissue comes in contact with a person or animal’s mouth, nose or eyes, or enters a cut in the skin.  Rabies is not spread by petting or touching dried saliva, blood, urine, or feces of a rabid animal.
  • What animals can carry rabies?
    In Maine, the most commonly infected animals are skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes. Rabies can infect any animal that has hair, but is very rare among small rodents like squirrels, rats, mice, and chipmunks. Bat exposures are often difficult to detect, especially in the cases of a sleeping person awakening to a bat in the room or an adult witnessing a bat in a room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person.
  • What is a rabies exposure?
    A rabies exposure happens when the saliva or neural tissue of a rabid animal comes in contact with a person or animal through a bite or scratch, cut in the skin, or gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • How can I prevent exposure to rabies?
    Generally, you can avoid contact with wild animals. Also, make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on rabies vaccination.

For more information, please visit http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/zoonotic/rabies/.