Animal Care & Control
The Rabies Virus
Rabies is a public health issue
because it is a viral disease that
is fatal in mammals, including man
and domestic pets (dogs, cat,
livestock, etc.) The San Bernardino
County Animal Care & Control
Program enforces the State laws
that require all animals involved
in a bite or scratch on a human to
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus (Lyssavirus) found in the saliva of infected
animals and is transmitted to other warm-blooded animals, including humans by a
bite, scratch, or possibly by contamination
of an open cut. Deadly and costly, rabies ranks as one of the top zoonotic diseases
in the United States and the world.
The rabies virus infects the central
nervous system (CNS), causing
swelling in the brain and ultimately
death. Early symptoms of rabies are
nonspecific, consisting of fever,
headache, and general illness. As
the disease progresses,
neurological symptoms appear
and may include insomnia, anxiety,
confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hyper-salivation,
difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (a fear of water). Death usually occurs within
days of the onset of symptoms.
Rabies is a preventable disease.
Modern day preventions have
proven nearly 100% successful.
In the United States, human
fatalities associated with rabies
occur in people who fail to seek
medical assistance, usually because
they are unaware of their exposure.
Over the last 100 years, rabies in
the United States has changed
dramatically. More than 90% of all animal cases reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now occur
in wildlife; before 1960 the majority of cases were reported in domestic animals.
The principal rabies hosts today are bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes.
The decline in cases of domestic animals is attributed to animal control programs
and the vaccination of companion animals.
How You Can Help
Prevention and education are the keys
to keeping you, your family, and your
pets safe from the disease. Listed
below are ways to prevent exposure:
Vaccinate your pets. Dogs are
required to be vaccinated for
rabies at four (4) months of age.
Cats can be vaccinated as early
as eight (8) weeks. The first rabies vaccine is effective for one (1) year. After
that initial shot, your pet should be re-vaccinated every three (3) years.
Animal Care & Control provides low-cost
Rabies Vaccination and dog licensing Clinics generally during the months of May
through July, since that is when most vaccines expire. However, if your vaccine
expires at another time you can take your pet to your local veterinarian’s office
to receive the shot.
Teach your children to respect
wildlife, but keep a safe distance.
DO NOT feed, harass, or provide
shelter for wildlife on your
Report any bite or scratch from a
domestic or wild animal to Animal
Care & Control at 1-800-472-5609.
Report dead, sick, or nesting bats
immediately by calling 1-800-472-5609.
DO NOT attempt to touch or confine the animal.