Bats are a cause of human rabies cases in the
United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now
recommends that every bat found inside a building or home be tested for rabies
if there was possible human contact (e.g. if people were sleeping in the
room). This is because it is possible to be bitten by a bat and not
even know it.
What happens if a person thinks they
have encountered a rabid animal or have been bitten by a mammal?
First, a person should
understand how rabies can be transmitted from an animal. See Exposure.
By law, all animal bites in PA must be reported by the medical
professional to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. If a person has been bitten, scratched or
otherwise exposed to saliva by a mammal that is suspected of having rabies,
the animal must be tested for rabies. The only way to test for rabies is
to euthanize the animal and have it submitted to an approved laboratory for
rabies testing. See: Submitting Animals for Rabies Testing. The Department of
Health should be notified by the medical professional and consulted for advice
on whether the exposed person should start receiving rabies treatment.
If a person has been
bitten by a mammal that is not
suspected of having rabies, then the animal must be observed for a period during which the animal is prevented
from exposing other people or animals. The Department of Health must be
notified by the medical professional and will provide advice on how to proceed.
If the animal is
clinically normal (not showing any signs of rabies) by the end of the
observation period, then it was very unlikely to have had rabies in its saliva
on the day it bit the person and will be released from observation. If the
animal shows signs of rabies or dies before the observation period is over, it
should be submitted for rabies testing. In some situations, such as when
the mammal is a wild animal, euthanasia may be preferential to a period of
What if the animal runs away? If a person has been bitten or
scratched by a mammal, either domestic or wild, but the animal is not available
for observation or testing, they should seek medical assistance immediately. The
medical professional must notify the county or local Department of Health
What happens to my pet or other
domestic mammal if it is bitten or scratched by a rabid animal?
By Department of
Agriculture regulations, a domestic animal that is exposed to a rabid animal
must be quarantined. Length of quarantine depends on rabies vaccination status
of the exposed domestic animal. If the domestic animal is unvaccinated (or
its vaccination status has expired) at the time of exposure to a rabid animal,
a 180-day quarantine will be imposed. If the domestic animal that
was exposed to a rabid animal was legally vaccinated for rabies and the
vaccination status was current at the time of exposure, a 90-day quarantine
will be imposed.
An exposed domestic animal
may receive a post-exposure vaccination. The Department of Agriculture will not
seize or euthanize your pet or domestic animals for being exposed to rabies!
However, in some circumstances, euthanasia of the exposed domestic animal may
be recommended at the owner’s discretion.
What does it mean for my pet to be