Rabies Program

Rabies is a viral disease spread through the saliva of a rabid animal.  Rabid animals transmit  the virus by biting a person or another animal. In rare cases, rabies can be spread when infected saliva gets into an open wound or the mucous membranes, such as the mouth or eyes. The virus attacks the nervous system and affects the brain and spinal cord. In Maryland, rabies is most frequently found in wildlife, most commonly raccoons, foxes, and bats. Cats are the most frequently identified rabid domestic animal.  Rabies in humans can be prevented by getting rabies shots. Rabies shots given soon after an exposure will prevent rabies. 

How to Stay Protected Against Rabies:

  • Vaccinate your dogs and cats regularly. (For more information on free rabies vaccination clinics, click here.)
  • Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave food outside
  • Enjoy wildlife from a distance.
  • Prevent bats from entering your home.

Prevalence of Rabies in Montgomery County:
Every year in Montgomery County, an average of 40 animals are confirmed to be rabid by laboratory analysis. While most of these animals are wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, and bats; there have been several rabid cats in Montgomery County over the last 5 years.

Changes in an Animal’s Normal Behavior May Indicate Rabies:

  • Wild animals may act friendly.
  • Domestic animal may act aggressive.
  • Rabid animals may appear sick and may stagger when walking, drool heavily or suffer from paralysis.
  • A nocturnal animal, seen outdoors acting normally during the daytime, is NOT an indicator of rabies.
What if You Are Bitten by an Animal in Montgomery County:
  • If an owned animal has bitten you, get the animal owner's name, address, and telephone number.
  • Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water.
  • Get prompt medical attention.
  • Immediately report the exposure by calling 301-279-8000. (If the attack is in progress, call 911)
  • Consider treatment if a bat was present and exposure cannot be reasonably ruled out. (e.g., a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room).   Bats have small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen. It is possible for a human to be bitten by a bat and not even know it. Any time a bat enters your home’s living space you should call 301-279-8000 so that an Animal Services Officer may respond to your home to assess the situation and capture the bat for rabies testing if necessary. If it was possible that a bite may have occurred, the bat will be tested for rabies.
What If Your Pet Bites or Attacks a Person:
  • Montgomery County Animal Control regulations require that you keep your dog or cat quarantined on your property for 10 days.  A representative from Montgomery County Animal Control will inspect your animal on the first (day 1) and last day (day 10). If your pet starts acting sick or runs away during the quarantine period, notify Animal Control immediately by calling 301-279-8000.
  • If your pet remains healthy during the quarantine, your pet will be released from quarantine (and the exposed person will NOT require rabies shots). 
What to Expect If You Need Rabies Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP):
  • Rabies PEP consists of cleaning the wound and administering immunizations.  In Montgomery County, PEP is administered in hospital emergency rooms as follows:
    • Rabies Human Immunoglobulin (RHIG) should be infiltrated in and around all bite wounds (if anatomically feasible), with any excess injected in a muscle distant from where vaccine is injected.  RHIG should be administered early, ideally when the vaccine series is initiated, but may be given up to seven (7) days after the first dose of vaccine is administered.
    • Rabies vaccine should be injected in 1-mL doses, in the deltoid (upper arm), on days 0, 3, 7, and 14. It is important to adhere to this schedule. “Day 0” represents the date that the vaccine series is started.
    • Vaccine should NOT be administered into the buttocks or in the same part of the body as RHIG.
  •    For patients who have been previously vaccinated against rabies, PEP should be administered as follows:

Additional Information: