Rabies

What is rabies?

Rabies is a serious and deadly disease caused by a rabies virus. The virus infects the brain and nervous system.

How is rabies spread?

Rabies is spread through the saliva (spit) of infected animal. Most humans get infected with rabies after being bitten by an infected animal.

In B.C., the only animals known to be infected with rabies are bats. Bat bites and scratches may transmit rabies. In other parts of Canada, rabies is commonly found in other wild animals, such as foxes, raccoons and skunks. In developing countries, such Africa and Southeast Asia, rabies is common in stray dogs.

See map of countries that are of high risk of rabies.

What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?

Symptoms usually start three to eight weeks after being infected, but it can take much longer. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Muscle spasm or weakness
  • Strange behaviour

What are the risks of rabies?

If you are not treated in time, rabies can be deadly. The majority of people infected with rabies die of the disease.

How can I prevent getting rabies?

  • Immunize your cat, dog or ferret against rabies. Even indoor cats need to be immunized against rabies in case they escape or bats enter your house.
  • Stay away from wild animals and animals you do not know.
  • Stay away from bats — even dead ones.
  • Ask your doctor or local travel clinic about the rabies vaccine if you’re travelling to developing countries, such as Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • If you are a student at a Canadian Veterinary College or Animal Health Technology Training Centre you are eligible for publicly funded rabies vaccine. Contact your doctor, pharmacist or Public Health for an appointment.

To book an immunization appointment with Public Health:

Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 


If you are employed in animal health or rabies research, the rabies vaccine is recommended but not publicly funded. Contact your employer regarding getting the vaccine.  

What should I do if I have been exposed to rabies?

Find out what to do if you have been exposed to rabies. 

Resources

For more information about rabies and the rabies vaccine, go to:

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