Rabies is a disease caused by a virus. The word "rabies" comes from a Latin word that means "to rage" because rabid animals sometimes act as if they are angry. Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord, and leads to death if precautions are not taken to prevent contraction.
- Any mammal can get rabies. The most common are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes. Domestic mammals can also get rabies. According to the Florida Department of Health, outside cats are by far the most common domestic animal found to have rabies in the State of Florida largely because they are not kept up-to-date on vaccinations. Although rare, humans can also get rabies from infected animals.
- An animal gets rabies from saliva, usually from a bite of an animal that has the disease. You cannot get rabies from blood.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of rabies-related human dealths in United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990's. Modern day vaccination efforts have proven nearly 100 percent successful.
- In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure. If you think you are infected, a doctor will assess the risk for rabies exposure. If necessary, a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a 28-day period will be given. Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine.