Rabies Control

Human rabies is a completely preventable disease if the risk of acquisition is appreciated and appropriate rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (consisting of both active and passive immunization) is obtained. Because rabies is a fatal disease, the goal of public health (in coordination with the medical community) is, first, to prevent human exposure to rabies by education and, second, to prevent the disease by administering rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if exposure occurs. Tens of thousands of people are successfully treated each year after being bitten by an animal that may have rabies. Although the decision to provide post-exposure prophylaxis rests with the patient and his or her physician, valuable consultations can be provided by the Georgia Poison Center, local health departments, or the Epidemiology Branch, Georgia Division of Public Health. All animal bites should be reported to the local health department.

A healthy dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be quarantined for 10 days, no matter if the animal is currently vaccinated or not. Administration of rabies vaccine is not recommended during the quarantine period. Quarantine conditions should prevent direct contact with other animals or persons. The quarantine shall be conducted under the authority of the designated local rabies control agency in which the place, manner, and provisions of the quarantine are specified. For example, quarantine may take place in a kennel in a veterinary hospital, animal control facility, commercial boarding establishment, or a pen at home, depending on local requirements. At the first sign of illness or behavioral change in the animal, the local rabies control agency should be notified and the animal should be evaluated by a veterinarian. If clinical signs are suggestive of rabies, the animal should be immediately euthanized and tested for rabies. Any stray or unwanted dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person may be euthanized immediately (or following the locally-specified impoundment period to give owners sufficient time to claim animals) and the head submitted for rabies examination.

For more information, please see the Rabies Control Manual.