December 18, 2015

Rabies

Human rabies is very rare in Canada. People can get rabies when they are bitten by infected animals. Symptoms may not show up for two to eight weeks. Rabies can cause confusion, breathing problems and seizures. Rabies is almost always fatal. Vaccination is a priority for anyone exposed to animals with proven or suspected rabies.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Persons exposed to an animal bite or scratches may be given post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent rabies infection:

1.     Rabies Immune Globulin (Imogam® Rabies, Hyperrab®)

  • Persons who previously received rabies vaccine, do not require rabies immune globulin.
  • Persons who have never received rabies vaccine and were exposed to an animal bite or scratched need rabies immune globulin, on the same day as the first dose of rabies vaccine. Dosage is based on body weight.

2.     Rabies Vaccine (Imovax® Rabies, RabAvert®)

  • Individuals who have never received rabies vaccine, should get 4 doses. One dose right away, then on the 3rd, 7th, and 14th day.
  • Individuals who have received rabies vaccine before, only need 2 doses. One dose right away and on the 3rd day.
  • Immune compromised individuals or persons taking anti-malarial drugs need a 5th dose; 28 days after the first dose.

Vaccine Benefits

Rabies vaccine is very effective in preventing infection in people who may have been exposed to an animal with rabies.

Rabies immune globulin provides immediate protection for people who have not been immunized against rabies in the past while the body’s immune system responds to the vaccine.

People Who Should Get the Vaccine

Anyone who has been bitten, scratched or licked on an open wound or sore by an animal suspected of having rabies should get this vaccine. This includes pregnant women and infants.

Possible Side Effects

Common side effects may include pain, swelling, redness or itching where the needle was given. A few people may have headaches, loss of appetite, stomach pain, muscle aches or dizziness. Serious side effects are rare.

Talk to a Health Care Provider

Call your doctor right away, if you have the following: hives, vomiting, high fever, convulsions or seizures, or any serious health problem within three weeks after getting the vaccine.

Missed Dose

See your health care provider as soon as possible, for missed doses, to stay on schedule.

Prevention

Protect yourself, your family and pets from rabies:

  • Get your pet dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. It’s an Ontario law.
  • Make sure that pet dogs are supervised. Don’t let them run loose in public spaces, unless in off-leash parks.
  • Stay away from all wild animals, especially if they appear tame, injured or sick.
  • Call 311 to report any wild animals showing abnormal or sick behaviour.
  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Wildlife-proof your home and yard. Store garbage bins inside a garage / basement until the morning of pick-up. Install lights around the green bin and garbage storage areas.

 

People at high risk of exposure should speak to their health care provider about getting the rabies vaccine:

  • Veterinarians, veterinary staff, animal control and wildlife workers
  • Laboratory workers who handle rabies virus
  • Travellers to countries where rabies is common
  • Hunters and trappers in areas with rabies
  • People who explore caves