512-248-3252 - or -
Se Habla Español
WIC and Community Nutrition
After Hours Emergency Contact
Rabies InformationAnimal Bite Reporting
Animal bites to people must be reported as soon as possible to the Local Rabies Control Authority (LRCA) in your community. In our community the Local Rabies Control Authority is typically an Animal Control Officer associated with the local law enforcement agency. The LRCA will investigate the incident and quarantine the animal for observation or testing, in accordance with Texas and local rabies prevention laws.
For more information on Texas’ rabies laws, go to the following link: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/zoonosis/laws/rules/
Local Rabies Control Authorities and Animal Control Officers are trained to deal with animal bites and potential rabies exposure incidents. They know how to properly quarantine or test a biting animal to determine if a bite victim was exposed to rabies.
What is Quarantine?
Quarantine means placing the animal in a facility which provides:
- Absolute security (no escape possible),
- isolation (no contact with other animals or persons), and
- observation twice daily by a qualified person. Quarantine must be in one of the following facilities:
- animal shelter with quarantine facilities licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)
- veterinary clinic operated by a licensed veterinarian, or
- owner’s home facility, if approved by the LRCA.
The LRCA is responsible for the proper handling and observation of all animals being quarantined. “Tying a dog up” for 10 days is one example of a procedure which does not provide the required security and isolation.
The owner of the biting animal is required by state law to pay the cost of the quarantine.
Reporting Abnormal Animal Behavior
Animal control officers should be notified when animals or wildlife appear to be exhibiting signs of rabies. Abnormal behavior or abnormal movement that might indicate rabies includes: staggering, falling, and circling. Animal Control staff will humanely euthanize the wild animal when it may have exposed people or other animals to rabies. They will send in the animal’s head (brain tissue) for rabies testing at the Department of State Health Services Laboratory in Austin. Animal rabies test results are typically available with 48 hours. Testing is done Monday through Friday, except for a few national holidays.
Rabies in Animals
Animal species varies in their likelihood for having and transmitting rabies. Some animals are “low- risk” for rabies. These include opossums, shrews, moles, squirrels, gophers, mice, rabbits, rats, and armadillos.
Some animal species in Texas are considered high risk for rabies transmission. These include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. When an exposure to a “high- risk” animal occurs, the animal must be submitted for rabies testing. By testing the animal’s brain tissue, the risk of rabies can be ruled in or out. Since brain tissue is needed for the rabies test, rabies suspect animals should not be killed by trauma or gun shot to its head.
Domestic dogs and cats pose more of a rabies risk than the “low-risk” species. Even when vaccinated against rabies, dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be quarantined for 10 days (240 hours) to prove they did not transmit rabies to the human bite victim. Home quarantine may be an option in your community, but only if certain criteria are met. It is better to have the animal observed in a secure quarantine pen or tested for rabies than to start the rabies postexposure vaccination series right away because the odds are that a domestic animal will not have rabies. Rabies is uncommon in domestic animals, so bites from dogs and cats do not warrant immediate postexposure vaccinations.
Medical Treatment of Animal Bite Wounds
Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and hot water as a first aid procedure. For all animal bites, contact your physician to determine the need for a tetanus shot, receive proper wound care, and to discuss the risk of rabies exposure. The LRCA will determine need for quarantine or testing options for the biting animal.
Definition of “Rabies Exposure”
“Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in skin, or onto mucous membranes from saliva or other potentially infectious material such as neural tissue.” (1).
The public and physicians may use the following link to evaluate if an exposure occurred and to characterize the risk from a particular species of animal. .
Rabies Vector Species in Central Texas
In Central Texas, including Travis and Williamson Counties, the predominant animal species that pose a rabies risk are bats and skunks. Rabies from bats and skunks has infected unvaccinated dogs (Round Rock, Liberty Hill) and a cat (Austin) in the past few years. Rabies from skunks kills some raccoons, foxes, unvaccinated horses and livestock throughout Texas each year.
Special Considerations for Bat Incidents
People should avoid direct contact with bats, even if they believe it is dead. Bats that may have exposed persons or animals should be turned over or picked up by the local animal control agency for rabies testing.
The following link to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) details potential ways rabies may be transmitted from bats: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/rabies/information/bats/.
What should you do if the animal’s rabies test result or quarantine outcome is positive for rabies?
The rabies postexposure prophylaxis (preventative) (PEP) series should be given to all persons exposed to a rabid animal. The PEP should include administration of both human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and vaccine. An exception is made for persons who have been previously immunized with the recommended pre- or postexposure regimens of Human Diploid Cell Vaccine or Purified Chicken Embryo Culture (or who have been immunized with other types of rabies vaccines and have documented rabies antibody production). In these cases, HRIG should not be given and a dose of vaccine should be given on day 0 and day 3.
For more information on the complete postexposure vaccination series treatment dates, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) website: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/rabies/information/treatment/people/recommend/.
Options for Obtaining Rabies Biologicals
Health care providers, who determine their patients need the preventative rabies vaccination series after valid rabies exposures, have several options for obtaining the biologicals. The products are sold commercially and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has depots around the state.
Before deciding upon a source for the rabies biologicals, the patient’s medical insurance provider should be consulted. The purchase of the biologicals should be done within the patient’s insurance plan guidelines. For instance, biologicals from the state health department may be considered “out of network” and the patient’s out-of-pocket costs may be higher than biologicals acquired from a preferred source.
Currently, the DSHS depots closest to Travis and Williamson counties are in Austin and Temple.
Option 1 – The health care provider may order the products from vendors or manufacturers. The vaccine and immune globulin can be shipped “overnight” to the medical practice.
- Novartis Vaccine and Diagnostics 1-800-244-7668 - RabAvert
- Sanofi Pasteur 1-800-822-2463 - Imovax
Human Rabies Immune Globulin manufacturers:
- Sanofi Pasteur 1-800-822-2463 - Imogam
- Talecris Biotherapeutics 1-800-243-4153 - Hyper-rab
Option 2 - Rabies biologicals may be available at hospital emergency rooms, after- hours clinics, and/ or occupational medicine clinics.
Option 3 – DSHS will distribute rabies biologicals to the patient or designee (for transport to their physician’s office) when other sources are not readily available. A health care provider must write a prescription before a DSHS office or depot will release product.
Biologicals are also available at the DSHS Health Service Region 7 Temple headquarters Monday through Friday 8: 00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; (254) 778-6744.
Proper Transport of Rabies Vaccine and Immune Globulin
Rabies biologicals must be kept chilled during transport to the patient’s health care provider. As such, the patient or their designee must bring an ice chest with cool packs or ice to the depot. The biologicals should be promptly transported to the health care provider who will be administering the injections.
For a rabies risk consultation, please contact:
- Williamson County and Cities Health District,
Communicable Disease Management Team
- DSHS Health Service Region 7 Temple
Continuing Education Opportunities
FREE online course: Rabies Postexposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Basics: Case Illustrations of the 2010 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Guidelines. The course is designed to educate health-care and public health professionals about rabies, the approach used in assessing rabies virus exposure, and administration of rabies PEP based on ACIP recommendations. Continuing Education credits are available to any physician, nurse, pharmacist, or veterinarian who takes the training.
Additional web-based resources:
- CDC. Human rabies prevention-United States, 1999. Recommendations of Advisory committee on Immunization Practices (APIC). MMWR 1999; 48: (No. RR-1).