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Disease Name: Rabies

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Please review the Idaho Reportable Disease Rules (IDAPA 16.02.10) for the most up-to-date information.


Overview / Case Definition

Rabies is a deadly neurologic disease of humans and other mammals, caused by the rabies virus. The rabies virus is part of the Rhabdoviridae family of RNA viruses. The virus attacks the nervous system. Once the rabies virus is introduced into the body through a bite wound or other point of entry, the virus travels up the closest peripheral nerve (such as nerves in the arms or legs), enters the central nervous system, and infects the brain.


Ten day observation period:

Dogs, cats, and ferrets are held in confinement for 10 days after biting someone to determine if they will develop clinical signs of rabies. The rabies virus is present in saliva of infected animals only for a few days before they appear ill and throughout the duration of their illness, until death. Dogs, cats, and ferrets usually develop clinical signs of rabies and die within 7–10 days of onset of illness. This time frame is known with some certainty for these species, and is the basis for the 10-day observation period. The incubation periods and virus shedding patterns are less well understood for other animal species. Wild animals (including bats) are not held for a 10 day observation period, like dogs, cats, and ferrets; it is preferable to euthanize them humanely and test them for rabies if an exposure occurs.


Reportable by Healthcare and Labs:

Reportable by Food Service Facility:

Suspect Reportable:

Reporting Timeframe: Animal (1 day), Human (immediately), Post Exposure Prophylaxis (rPEP) (1 day)

Diagnosis / Testing

Animal samples

Animal samples are required to be triaged to determine whether testing is appropriate prior to testing by IBL. Public Health District or BCDP epidemiologists will conduct the required evaluation, as needed. When in doubt, contact the BCDP Epidemiology Program to obtain prior approval for testing.

Human samples

Contact the BCDP Epidemiology Program for further information, if you suspect a human case of rabies.

Contact Information

Contact BCDP during working hours at 334-5939.  Contact SCPHD at (866) 710-9775.  After hours, call Idaho State Communications at 800-632-8000 and have appropriate staff paged.


Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (rPEP)

Use of rPEP is reportable within 1 working day of initiation of administration. Rabies is virtually 100% fatal and the vaccination and rabies immune globulin regimen is lifesaving; therefore, no opportunity for prophylaxis should be overlooked.

rPEP should begin as soon as possible after exposure, ideally within 24 hours. However, a delay of several days or more may not compromise effectiveness and prophylaxis should be initiated if reasonably indicated regardless of the interval between exposure and initiation of therapy.

Public Health District and/or BCDP Epidemiologists will collaborate with local hospitals to provide rPEP to those deemed at risk.

rPEP for rabies is recommended for all people bitten by wild mammalian carnivores or bats or by domestic animals that are suspected to be rabid unless laboratory tests prove that the animal does not have rabies. rPEP also is recommended for people who report an open wound, scratch, or mucous membrane that has been contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material from a rabid animal.

Rabies Postexposure Prophylaxis Guide


Animal Type

Evaluation and Disposition of Animal

Postexposure Prophylaxis Recommendations

Dogs, cats, and ferrets

Healthy and available for 10 days of observation

Prophylaxis only if animal develops signs of rabies (a)


Rabid or suspected of being rabid (b)

Immediate immunization and Rabies Immune Globulin


Unknown (escaped)

Consult public health officials for advice

Bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and most other carnivores; woodchucks

Regarded as rabid unless geographic area is known to be free of rabies or until animal proven negative by laboratory tests

Immediate immunization and Rabies Immune Globulin

Livestock, rodents, and lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas)

Consider individually

Consult public health officials; bites of squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, mice and other rodents, rabbits, hares, and pikas almost never require rabies postexposure prophylaxis


Additional Information


Click to Call South Central Public Health District

Click to Call the Idaho State Epidemiologist

Click to Call Idaho State Communications