Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system caused by a virus, known as Rabies virus. In Alameda County, the virus is usually transmitted to humans by a bite or scratch from a wild infected animal, most commonly, a bat or a skunk. Rabies almost always results in death if a bite or scratch from a rabid animal (an animal infected with rabies) is not treated at the time of exposure and symptoms of an infection develop.
Raccoons, foxes, dogs and cats also can be infected with rabies. A few cases of rabies have been reported in wolves, coyotes, bobcats, ferrets, cattle, horses, goats and sheep. Small rodents such as hamsters, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and rabbits are very rarely infected with the rabies.
How is Rabies Spread to Humans?
Rabies is transmitted to humans and other animals through close contact with saliva from infected animals (i.e. bites, scratches, licks on broken skin and mucous membranes). Person-to-person spread is very rare.
Vaccination of animals against rabies and not feeding or handling wild or stray animals are the primary methods of rabies prevention. California regulations (H&SC §121690, CCR Title 17 §2606.4) require all dogs to be licensed and vaccinated against rabies. It is strongly recommended that all cats, ferrets, and, in some cases, livestock, be vaccinated as well.
Control Activities in Alameda County
Our Department helps healthcare providers determine your potential risk of rabies exposure, tests animals for rabies, and advises on management of human rabies exposures. The Alameda County Vector Control Services District leads activities related to wildlife management and domestic animals rabies control, such as trapping, investigating and quarantine of both wild and domestic animals suspected of having rabies, educating the public on preventing rabies, and monitors local animal control agency activities. Check Public Health's Communicable Disease Website for more information.