Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that can affect the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of any kind of mammal, including humans. Rabies-infected animals can spread the disease through their saliva or brain matter.

Signs of rabies in animals may include excessive saliva or sometimes foaming at the mouth, paralysis, or behavioral changes in a pet (shyness when the pet used to be friendly) or no fear of humans in a wild animal.

After rabies symptoms appear, the disease progresses quickly and is very difficult to cure. Getting postexposure prophylaxis shots (PEP) before symptoms occur usually gets rid of the virus before it can cause serious damage. Rabies is nearly always fatal if not treated before symptoms appear.

People who believe they may have been exposed to the rabies virus should seek medical attention immediately.

Current as of: May 22, 2015

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease