Franklin County Health Department

Public Health Saves Lives

Animal Bite / Rabies Information 

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

What is Rabies?

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms. (CDC)

What happens if I was bitten?

Rabies is a medical urgency not an emergency, but decisions must not be delayed.  Any wounds should be immediately washed and medical attention from a health care provider should be sought for any trauma due to an animal attack before considering the need for rabies vaccination.

The need for rabies vaccination should be evaluated under the advisement of your physician and/or a state or local health department.  Decisions to start vaccination, known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), will be based on your type of exposure, the animal you were exposed to, as well as the laboratory and surveillance information for the area where the exposure occurred.

Please contact your family physician for medical treatment for any bite or scratch.
Also contact the Franklin County Health Department at (502) 564-7647 or email Kendra Palmer to report a bite or scratch.
You may also fax the Animal Bite Form to us at (502) 564-9586 .

Rabies Vaccinations for pets

Rabies vaccinations protect pets, but they also protect people by preventing rabies in wild animals that may spread to those pets, and then to us. Rabies is a zoonotic infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. Zoonotic, means the disease can be passed from animals to humans. People get rabies from the bite of an infected, or rabid, animal. Wild mammals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes or bats as well as domestic animals like dogs, cats, horses and cattle can transmit rabies to people. Rabies is not in Franklin County, but still very common in the wild in the United States.  Per law, KRS 258.015, all cats, dogs and ferrets 4 months of age and older are to have a current and valid rabies vaccination.

Fortunately, rabies is 100% preventable with vaccination. 

Updated: December 14, 2023