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Epidemiology Program

Rabies is a preventable viral disease that is almost always fatal to humans and animals once symptoms develop. Humans are typically exposed to the virus through the bite of a rabid animal. Although rare, the virus can also be transmitted if the saliva of a rabid animal gets into a fresh scratch or break in your skin, or is introduced to your mucous membranes (e.g., eyes, mouth, or nose). 

Bats test positive for rabies more frequently than any other animal in San Diego County. Therefore, any direct, skin-to-bat contact should be carefully evaluated by a health care provider in consultation with the local health department (Epidemiology Program). Bites and scratches from bats are extremely small and may not be noticeable. Even sleeping in the same room as a bat may present a risk. Bites or scratches from wild, carnivorous mammals (e.g., skunks, raccoons, coyotes, or foxes) are also considered high-risk exposures. Low-risk exposures include bites or scratches from small rodents (e.g., mice, rats, squirrels, gophers, chipmunks, etc) or lagomorphs (e.g., rabbits). Only mammals are susceptible to rabies.

If you were bitten or scratched by an animal that is susceptible to rabies, or have had direct contact with a bat, wash the wound and/or area thoroughly with soap and warm water and consult your health care provider as soon as possible. Your health care provider will decide if you need post-exposure treatment, possibly in consultation with the local health department. If indicated, this treatment should begin as soon as possible.

The Epidemiology Program is available for consultation during business hours at 619-692-8499 and after hours at 858-565-5255. 

The documents and websites below may answer more of your questions about rabies.

Information for the Public
Information for Health Facilities and Health Professionals
Additional Resources

For more information, contact the Epidemiology Program 619-692-8499 or send us an e-mail.