Post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis for Rabies

Rabies is a serious and deadly virus that is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, usually a bat, raccoon, skunk, fox, or small rodent. Worldwide, it is estimated that millions of people receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) annually.

PEP is a medical treatment to prevent the onset of rabies. It involves a combination of passive immunization (rabies immunoglobulin) with active immunization (rabies vaccinations). It is recommended for people who have had contact with a rabid animal or been exposed to the virus.

Who Should Receive PEP?

The decision to use PEP must be made on an individual basis. Generally, it is recommended for anyone who has had contact with a rabid animal, including:

  • Being bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid animal
  • Being exposed to saliva, brain, or nervous tissue from an animal known to be rabid
  • Having contact with a bat or other wild carnivore that is unable to be tested for rabies

Treatment Details

Immunization with post-exposure rabies vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin are prescribed as soon as possible after exposure. The vaccine is given in a series of shots. This schedule depends on the individual's age and immune status. Generally, it consists of four doses of injected vaccine, with the first shot given immediately.

Rabies immunoglobulin is given once at the same time as the first dose of vaccine. It is an antibody that helps protect against rabies by providing immediate protection until the rabies vaccine-induced immunity develops.

Preventive Measures

To reduce the risk of rabies exposure, it is important to take preventive measures. This includes avoiding contact with wild animals, vaccinating domestic animals, reporting rabid animals, and avoiding contact with unfamiliar animals (including cats and dogs). It is also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of rabies in animals.