Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that affects the central nervous system causing encephalopathy leading to death. The virus is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. There are two forms of rabies:
- Dumb rabies, in which an animal acts sick, does not eat and is lethargic.
- Furious rabies, in which an animal shows aggressive and vicious behavior.
Over the past 100 years, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of human rabies cases due to the availability of a vaccine and vigilant surveillance by public health officials. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health investigates rabies cases and may quarantine exposed animals to prevent the spread of the virus. The Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine offers this Rabies Vaccination Guidance Document for veterinarians and the public.
Wild animals make up the majority of Minnesota’s annually reported rabies cases. Species of highest concern include skunks and bats, which are carriers for the virus. Less than 15 percent of rabid animal cases reported annually in Minnesota occur in domestic species; the most common being cattle, cats and dogs.