Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any mammal or human that gets sick from it. The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound or in the eye or mouth.

VA Guidelines for Rabies Prevention & Control

How to Prevent the Spread of Rabies

Rabies is usually transmitted to pets from wildlife. The best way to protect your pet from rabies is to get them vaccinated and keep them away from wild animals.

All dogs and cats within the county are required to have up-to-date vaccinations against rabies per the  Code of Chesterfield. Even indoor dogs and cats are at risk if they escape outside, or if a rabid bat enters your home. Puppies and kittens should get their first rabies vaccination by 4 months of age. Re-vaccination is required no later than one year after the primary vaccination and every 3 years thereafter.

If a Human Has Been Exposed

You may have been exposed to rabies if you were:

- Bitten by a type of animal that is known to transmit rabies virus and the animal cannot be tested. In the City of Chesterfield, this includes raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats. In other areas of the U.S., it includes coyotes and mongooses.

- Bitten by any animal that tests positive for rabies.

- Bitten by an animal suspected of being rabid but cannot be tested.

- Bitten by a dog, cat or ferret that is unavailable for testing or a 10-day observation period.

- In contact with a bat, or found a bat in the room of a previously unattended child, or woke up to find a bat in the room.

Rabbits and small rodents, including squirrels, hamsters, mice and rats, are not normally found to be infected with rabies, nor have there been any human rabies cases associated with them. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a rabies risk, unless the animal was showing signs of rabies.  

If You Think You Have Been Exposed to Rabies, Follow These Steps:

  1. Immediately wash the wound with soap and water and continue irrigating the wound for 10 to 15 minutes. This will help kill and remove any virus that may have entered the wound.
  2. If the exposure was from a dog or cat, try to get the pet owner’s name, address and phone number or get information of any person that may be able to identify the animal.
  3. To report an animal bite, scratch, or possible exposure to a wild animal such as a bat, contact Environmental Health at (804) 914-2676. Please leave a detailed message with your name, number, incident address and details regarding the exposure. If calling outside of our regular business hours (8:00 AM - 4:30 PM) or on weekends, your call will be answered on the next business day. If you have been bitten, scratched, or possibly exposed to wildlife, or a possible rabid animal, seek medical treatment immediately.  
  4. If you believe, you were exposed to a bat found in your home, close windows and doors so it cannot escape until it can be captured.
  5. Post exposure prophylaxis is recommended when your health care provider confirms an exposure and the suspected animal cannot be confined for observation, tested, or if the test result is positive.

Animal Observation

If a healthy dog or cat has bitten you and you are able to provide the owner’s information to your health care provider or to the Health Department, the animal’s owner will be directed to watch it for 10 days at home, called a confinement period. The Health Department will be in contact with the pet owner to see if the animal remains healthy at the end of the observation period.

If the biting animal is still alive and healthy after this period, you do not need to get a rabies vaccine. If the animal develops signs of rabies during this period, the Health Department will instruct the owner to immediately have the animal examined by a licensed veterinarian. The veterinarian will report their finding to the Health Department and a determination will be made whether rabies testing is required. In order to conduct this test, the animal must be euthanized.

If the biting animal cannot be found or it tests positive for rabies, the victim of the exposure will be advised to receive post exposure rabies prophylaxis treatment.

For any other inquires, you may reach us through email at chd_rabies@vdh.virginia.gov.