What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted by bites from an infected animal. Rabies can be prevented if treated promptly before symptoms develop. Left untreated, rabies is nearly always fatal. Although rabies in humans is very rare in the United States today, up to 40,000 people each year receive preventive treatment following an exposure.


Is rabies still a problem?

In Tennessee and elsewhere in the U.S., the number of rabies cases in domestic animals has declined dramatically due to mandatory vaccination laws for dogs and cats.  However, rabies among wildlife (especially skunks, bats, and raccoons) has become more prevalent.  The higher the incidence of rabies in wildlife, the greater the risk to domestic animals who act as a buffer zone between wildlife and humans.

dog on doghouse

How can you protect your pets?

Tennessee law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies and their shots kept up-to-date.  Although cases of rabies in cats in Tennessee are uncommon, there are twice as many rabid cats as dogs in the U.S.  To further protect your pets, keep them confined to a controlled area to limit their exposure to wild animals.

For Further Guidance

See the Tennessee Department of Health Rabies Webpage, for detailed information on the rabies situation in Tennessee, prevention of rabies in humans and domestic animals, and laboratory testing of animals for rabies.

Healthcare providers, laboratories, and public health professionals can find more information about this disease and a variety of others at the Tennessee Department of Health Reportable Diseases and Events home page https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/reportable-diseases.html.