Rabies is a little different than most vaccine-preventable diseases.
While we do have a rabies vaccine, in fact, one of the first vaccines when it was developed in 1885 by Louis Pasteur, it is typically given after you have been exposed to the rabies virus. Most other vaccines are routinely given before you are ever exposed to the diseases they prevent.
And the rabies vaccine has changed a lot since Pasteur’s day.
Instead of getting daily shots for 14-21 days, the rabies vaccine is now given when you are exposed, with human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), with further doses of vaccine on days 3, 7, and 14.
Do you need a rabies vaccine after getting bit by an animal?
It depends on the animal and whether or not the animal can be quarantined (confined and observed for rabies symptoms for 10 days).
And while any mammal can get rabies, the ones that are most worrisome are:
- raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes
- cats, dogs, and ferrets
- livestock, cattle, horses
Most importantly, note that “Recent data suggest that transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats.”
The CDC states that “Small rodents like squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, and mice) and lagomorphs including rabbits and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.”