Rabies - Information for Health Care Providers

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva or neural tissue of infected animals. All mammals can get rabies. Animals in Iowa are infected with rabies every year; some animals are more likely to be infected than others. For example, wild animals (especially skunks and bats) most often get rabies. All domestic animals (such as dogs, cats, horses, and cattle) can be infected. Rodents (such as squirrels, hamsters, and mice) and rabbits very rarely get rabies. Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal. For that reason, immune globulin and rabies vaccine is recommended under certain circumstances to stop the rabies virus from infecting the body.

Rabid animals are found every year in Iowa

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What constitutes an exposure?

  • There was a bite from an animal to a human.
  • There was saliva/neural tissue contact from an animal to a human’s open cut or mucous membrane.
  • A bat is found in the same room with a sleeping person, an unattended child, an intoxicated person, or anyone unable to confirm that they were NOT bitten.

Other contact, such as contact with blood, urine, skunk spray, or feces, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for prophylaxis.


State and local laws require that dogs, cats and ferrets that have bitten or exposed a human to their saliva be quarantined for 10 days regardless of their rabies vaccination status. If at any time during the quarantine period, a dog, cat, or ferret shows signs of rabies, the animal should be immediately euthanized and tested. Please see the following list to determine who enforces in your jurisdiction.

Testing Information

There are two laboratories in Iowa that provide animal rabies testing services:

Protocol for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

If a person that has not been vaccinated is exposed to a rabid animal, what is required for post exposure prophylaxis?

  • Human Rabies Immune-Globulin (HRIG) on day 0, plus a series of Human Rabies Vaccines (HRV) on days 0, 3, 7, and 14 (immune compromised patients should receive a 5th dose on day 28 and subsequent titer check).

If a person previously vaccinated with Human Rabies Vaccine is exposed to a rabid animal, what is required for post exposure prophylaxis?

  • Persons with previous rabies vaccination [completed series of the three vaccine pre exposure prophylaxis or the series of four/five vaccines and Human Rabies Immune Globulin post exposure prophylaxis (using Human Diploid Cell Vaccine, Rabies Vaccine Adsorbed, or Purified Chick Embryo Vaccines)], should receive two doses of rabies vaccine on days 0 and 3. The person does not need Human Rabies Immune Globulin.

Other recommended measures include:


Iowa HHS provides consultation to help health care providers, veterinarians, and the general public to determine whether a potential exposure occurred. Rabies exposure consultation can be obtained from the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology:

During business hours call: (800) 362-2736

After hours call: (515) 323-4360 (the Iowa State Patrol will contact the person on call)

Additional Resources