Rabies Information for Health Professionals

Epidemiology and Informatics
Public Health

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What you need to know

Rabies Submission

For any submission involving potential exposure in humans, please call (402) 471-2937 before sending the specimen. The specimen may be eligible for state-paid testing.

Rabies Investigation Guidelines

The Nebraska Rabies Investigation Guidelines includes information on managing potential exposures to rabies.

Rabies Control

Dog and cat bites are the most common potential exposure to rabies. Vaccination of pets remains the most effective step to reduce human exposure. Other important steps to control rabies include:

  • Control of stray animals.
  • Educating the general public about contact with wild animals.
  • Policies to control the acquisition of wild animals as pets.

Criteria for Assessing Rabies Exposure

Medical and veterinary care providers should use these steps when deciding on recommendations for post-exposure prophylaxis:

  • Use regional data on the prevalence of animal rabies.
  • Assess the circumstances of the actual patient exposure.

The following definitions will help health care personnel to decide if there is a need for post-exposure prophylaxis.

Human Exposure

When a person experiences percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure to saliva or to central nervous system (CNS) tissue of a potentially rabid animal.

  • Simply touching or handling a potentially rabid animal or another animal or inanimate object that has had contact with a rabid animal does not constitute an exposure. An exception occurs, however, when wet saliva or CNS tissue entered a fresh, open wound or had contact with a mucous membrane.
  • Consult a physician to assess any potential exposure.

Provoked Attack

We consider an attack as "provoked" when a domestic animal is in a situation such that an expected reaction would be to bite or attack.  This would include, but not be limited to:

  • Invading an animal's territory
  • Trying to pet or handle an unfamiliar animal
  • Startling an animal
  • Running or bicycling past an animal
  • Assisting an injured or sick animal
  • Trying to capture an animal
  • Removing food, water or other objects in the animal's possession

Unprovoked Attack

An "unprovoked" attack or bite occurs when an animal strikes for no apparent reason. The behavior should be unusual for that animal. We can often confirm chronic aggressive behavior by interviewing the animal's owner. This will help to decide whether the attack was indeed "unprovoked."