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Download Facts About Rabies

Rabies Facts

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It is transmitted in the saliva through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies causes severe inflammation in the brain and spinal cord and is nearly always fatal. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, including humans. Download our rabies information sheet (Spanish).

Rabies in Colorado

In Colorado and throughout the United States, many different wild animal species can carry rabies. Skunks and bats are the most significant sources of rabies in Colorado, but other animals such as dogs, cats, horses and livestock, can become infected with rabies through contact with wild animals. Small rodents and rabbits do not usually carry rabies.

Rabies is becoming more common in wildlife along Colorado's Front Range, placing both humans and animals at risk for this deadly disease.

Rabid animals usually show abnormal behavior, such as aggression, confusion or lack of fear of people.

Contact with infected wild or domestic animals places you and your family at risk for rabies infection. Immediate medical treatment is required if a person or domestic animal is exposed to rabies.

Rabies in humans is 100 percent preventable through prompt and appropriate medical care. Your health provider, possibly in consultation with your state or local health department, will decide if you need the rabies vaccination series.

Get the facts

  • Half of the people who die from rabies are under the age of 15.
  • In the United States, rabies has been reported in every state except Hawaii.
  • Rabies gets its name from a Latin word that means "to rage"  because animals with rabies sometimes act as if they are angry.
  • Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord. If it is not prevented, it will cause death.
  • Any mammal can get rabies. It can only be passed to another animal or a person through saliva. You cannot get rabies from blood.
  • Animals with rabies may act differently. It's always best to stay away from wild animals and to be careful with other people's pets.
  • Improvements in animal control, vaccination of animals programs and advancements in medical treatments have reduced the number of human deaths from rabies in the U.D. to two to three per year since 1990.

What should I do if I am bitten by an animal?

  • Clean and wash the wound for at least 5 minutes with soap and water.
  • All animal bites should be evaluated by a physician immediately. Antibiotics, a rabies vaccine and a tetanus booster might be needed.

What are the signs and symptoms of rabies?

  • The first symptoms of rabies may be similar to the flu including general weakness or discomfort, fever or headache. These symptoms may last for days.
  • There may be a discomfort pricking or itching sensation oat the site of the bite, progressing within days to confusion, anxiety or agitation. Infected persons may also experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations and insomnia.

Who to contact about rabid animals

If you or a family member has been in contact with an animal that could have rabies, seek medical attention immediately and contact your local health department. If you live in Denver County, call 3-1-1 to make a report.