Rabies in North Carolina is a virus that affects the nervous system and is potentially fatal to humans. It’s mainly spread to humans via a bite from an infected animal. But non-bite exposure is also possible. An animal can spread the virus by scratching you or by getting infected saliva into an open wound on your body.
Humans and rabies
In the United States, bats are the main source of human deaths from rabies. And in 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an increase in human rabies caused by bats in the United States. But on a global scale, dog attacks are responsible for more than 90 percent of human rabies cases.
North Carolina rabies law requires dog, cat and ferret owners to vaccinate their animals by the time the animals are four months old. Wild and stray animals can spread rabies, too. Anyone exposed to rabies needs immediate medical attention or they risk potentially deadly brain and spinal cord inflammation.
Rabies treatment involves several injections of the rabies vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin. The injections contain antibodies that fight the virus. The rabies vaccine is given in four or five doses over two weeks. But the immunoglobulin is given once when treatment begins and protects you while the vaccine does its work.
Rabies is potentially life-threatening to humans, but the vaccine can save your life. Being bitten or scratched by an animal puts you at risk, even if you’re unsure if the animal has rabies. Clean your wound and seek medical help. If you work with animals, pre-rabies vaccination can reduce your risk of catching the virus.