What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. It is caused by the rabies virus, which belongs to the Lyssavirus genus. Rabies is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. It is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, making it a significant public health concern. 

How is Rabies transmitted?

Rabies is transmitted primarily through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. The virus is present in the saliva and nervous tissue of infected animals. It can enter the human body through broken skin or mucous membranes. The most common carriers of the rabies virus are:

  • Dogs (responsible for the majority of human rabies cases worldwide)
  • Bats
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Foxes

It is essential to avoid contact with wild animals and to keep a safe distance from unfamiliar domestic animals. While direct contact with an infected animal is the primary mode of transmission, the virus can also be transmitted through organ transplants and, in rare cases, through the air in enclosed spaces with high concentrations of the virus (e.g., bat caves).

If you have come into contact with any wild animals please call the Orange County Department of Health at 845-291-2331. Our phone number is available 24 hours a day.

How can Rabies be prevented?

Preventing rabies involves:

  • A combination of responsible pet ownership.
  • Avoiding contact with wild or unfamiliar animals.
  • Seeking prompt medical attention if bitten or scratched by an animal.
  • Seek medical attention: If bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately, even if the injury seems minor. 
  • Vaccinate your pets: Ensure that your pets, particularly dogs and cats, are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. This protects them and reduces the risk of transmission to humans.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals: Do not approach, feed, or handle wild animals, even if they appear friendly or injured. Teach children to respect wildlife from a distance.
  • Secure your property: Keep trash cans and pet food containers securely closed to avoid attracting wild animals. Seal any openings in your home or outbuildings where animals might seek shelter.
  • Report stray animals: Notify local authorities or animal control agencies about stray dogs or cats in your area, as they may pose a risk for rabies transmission.

Additional Resources:

Here are links to reputable resources for further information and guidance on rabies: