Prevent getting rabies after an animal bite, scratch, or exposure

What to do

If you think you have been exposed to rabies from contact with a rabid or possibly rabid animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water. Contact your health care provider immediately. Your health care provider will decide if rabies shots are necessary.

Find out which animals can pass rabies to people

In San Francisco, all animal rabies cases since the 1940s have occurred in bats.

In the USA, most animal cases of rabies occur among wild raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Coyotes and opossums can also pass rabies. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and cattle, can get infected with rabies, but they only rarely do. A pet dog, cat, or ferret that was born in the USA and is documented to be current with rabies vaccines is very unlikely to have rabies.

In the USA, rabies has not been passed to humans by small rodents like gophers, squirrels, mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, or guinea pigs.

In developing countries, including most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, domestic and wild animals carry rabies. In these countries, people may get rabies from dogs.

Find out if you need rabies shots after a dog or cat bite

It depends. Can the health of the animal be determined at 10 days after the bite? Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are still healthy 10 days after the bite do not have rabies. So there is no need for the bite victim to get rabies shots.

If the health of the animal cannot be determined at 10 days (it was a stray that ran away, for example) then:

  • If the animal lives in San Francisco, it is extremely unlikely to have rabies. So we do not strongly recommend shots. But since there is still a small chance of rabies, we recommend a shared decision about the shots between you and your doctor.
  • If the animal lives outside San Francisco, we will consider the likelihood of rabies in the area where the animal lives. We then make a recommendation. If you got bitten by a dog, cat, or ferret outside the USA, we usually give a strong recommendation for rabies shots.

Learn more about the rabies shots regimen

The regimen includes 1 dose of Human Rabies Immune Globulin (HRIG) and 4 doses of rabies vaccine for most people. You should get HRIG and the first dose of vaccine from a doctor as soon as possible after exposure. Then you get more doses of the vaccine on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccine dose. If you are immunosuppressed, you will get a fifth dose on day 28 after the first vaccine dose.

The combination of wound treatment, HRIG, and vaccination is 100% effective in preventing human rabies. No one has developed rabies after taking these steps soon enough and correctly after an exposure.

Find out where to complete a rabies shots regimen started outside of SF

Go to the emergency department of the hospital that is in-network with your insurance. If you cannot do that, make an appointment at AITC.

Learn how to avoid exposure to rabies

Avoid contact with wild animals.

Put screens on all windows and use chimney caps. Place draft-guards beneath doors to attics. Ensure that all doors to the outside close tightly. Do not keep doors or unscreened windows open, especially if people are sleeping.

Evacuate any room with a live bat and close the door. Call Animal Care and Control immediately at (415) 554-9400 if there is a bat inside your home or workplace, or if you find a sick or dead bat outside your home. Do not touch bats even if you think they are sick or dead.

Keep your pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date.

Information for clinicians and veterinarians

Information for clinicians and veterinarians

San Francisco clinicians and veterinarians should call the SFDPH Communicable Disease Control Unit at (415) 554-2830 to report a potential rabies exposure or to discuss the need for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Clinicians and veterinarians should report all animal (mammal) bites to Animal Care and Control (ACC), even if the risk of rabies is low (e.g., bite from a domestic cat). Call ACC or complete an Animal Bite Report.  Please click here for ACC contact information.

Any animal that bites a person and is euthanized before 10 days of monitoring can be completed must be tested for rabies, as mandated by California regulation (17 California Code of Regulations [CCR] §2606). Veterinarians must report any such animals to ACC at 415-554-9400 to set up testing.

Get help

For more information

Contact your physician or visit the rabies page at the California Department of Public Health.

Last updated May 10, 2024