What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease of the nervous system that is nearly 100% fatal. It is spread through bites of infected animals.
Rabies in humans is extremely rare in the United States but causes thousands of deaths each year worldwide. Most rabies deaths occur from dog bites in areas of the world where animal vaccination programs are not well developed.
In Washington, bats are the most common mammal affected by rabies. Rabies is extremely rare in other animals in Washington. Washington State Department of Health publishes a list of bats that have tested positive for rabies in the state this year.
Providers and veterinarians must report possible human rabies exposure immediately.
Refer to the Washington State Guidelines for Human Rabies Prevention for more information on potential exposure.
We are available to discuss cases with providers, please call, Call (360) 678-7888, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Encounters with bats, including bites or a bat found in a sleeping area, are considered potential rabies exposures. If available, bats should be sent for testing to the Washington State Public Health Lab. Treatment can usually be deferred until test results are available.
To report, visit our Report Notifiable Conditions page or call the reporting line: (360) 499-4023 Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Afterhours, call (360) 914-0837 or Washington State Department of Health (206) 418-5500. To report an STI, call (360) 914-0037.
- Washington State Guidelines for Human Rabies Prevention provides guidance, case definitions and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) information. This document helps assess the exposure risk and provides recommended actions for a wide range of scenarios.
- Rabies Vaccine Information Statement (English)(other languages)