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Indiana State Board of Animal Health

BOAH > Rabies Information > Handling a Bite Handling a Bite

Exposure to rabies is most likely the result of an animal bite. However, a scratch or other contact with a rabid animal that allows virus-infected saliva to make contact with a person's (or animal's) mucous membranes or bloodstream (including eyes, mouth lining, etc.) can lead to infection.

Rabies is not carried only by wild animals animals or furious, vicious dogs. Unvaccinated family pets and apparently docile wildlife can carry and spread the disease to people and animals.

Human Bitten By An Animal
If someone is bitten or scratched:

  1. Wash the wound immediately with soap and running water for at least 10 minutes.
  2. See a physician immediately, even for minor wounds.
  3. If the animal can be captured or confined without risking further injury or exposure, do so. Or contact local animal control authorities for assistance.
  4. Do not destroy the animal. It may need to be quarantined and observed for signs of illness or tested for the rabies virus.
  5. Contact your county health department to report the bite.

NOTE: Potential exposures to bats may be difficult to recognize, especially if the patient was asleep or not mentally competent at the time of the event. Seek medical advice when a bat is discovered in such situations.

Pet Bitten By An Animal
If a pet or livestock is bitten or scratched:

  1. Wash the wound immediately with soap and running water for at least 10 minutes.
  2. See a veterinarian immediately, even for minor wounds. Vaccinated animals may need to receive a booster vaccination to increase immunity to the disease.
  3. If the biting animal can be captured or confined without risking further injury or exposure, do so. Or contact local animal control authorities for assistance.
  4. Do not destroy the bitten or biting animals. Either may need to be quarantined and observed for signs of illness or tested for the rabies virus.
  5. Contact your county health department to report the bite.