Clean the wound well with soap and water, and seek professional medical help. You'll need a doctor to thoroughly clean the wound and remove any foreign objects. Most of the time, stitches should not be used for animal bite wounds.
If there is any risk of rabies, you will be given a series of a preventive vaccine. This is generally given in 5 doses over 28 days.
Most patients also receive a treatment called human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG). This is given the day the bite occurred.
Call your doctor right away after an animal bite or after being exposed to animals such as bats, foxes, and skunks. They may carry rabies.
There is no known effective treatment for people with symptoms of a rabies infection.
It's possible to prevent rabies if immunization is given soon after the bite. To date, no one in the United States has developed rabies when given the vaccine promptly and appropriately.
Once the symptoms appear, the person rarely survives the disease, even with treatment. Death from respiratory failure usually occurs within 7 days after symptoms start.
Untreated, rabies can lead to coma and death.
In rare cases, some people may have an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if an animal bites you.
Rupprecht CE, Briggs D, Brown CM, et al. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Use of a reduced (4-dose) vaccine schedule for postexposure prophylaxis to prevent human rabies: recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 Mar 19;59(RR-2):1-9. Erratum in: MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 Apr 30;59(16):493.
Bassin SL, Rupprecht CE, Bleck TP. Rhabdoviruses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 163.
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