Mississippi State Department of Health



Rabies is a viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, and ultimately the brain, causing death.

In Mississippi bats are the primary reservoir for the rabies virus. Bats with rabies continue to be identified in the state and, while human cases of rabies are rare in Mississippi, bats are the primary wild animal responsible for transmitting the disease to humans. This is why any contact with a bat whether a bite is identified or not, puts an individual at risk for rabies infection. In 2013 1.84% of the bats tested for rabies in Mississippi were positive compared to the national percentage of 5.87% positive of all bats tested.

Any mammal can be infected with rabies; however, like human rabies, land animal rabies is rare in Mississippi. Since 1961 only a single case of land animal rabies (a feral cat in 2015) has been identified in our state. In the United States raccoons, skunks, and foxes are the most commonly identified land animals with rabies. Rabies is not typically seen in rodents such as mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, guinea pigs, hamsters, or rabbits. Birds, turtles, lizards, fish and insects do not contract or carry rabies.

Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal. Symptoms include convulsions, paralysis, and finally death. If you are bitten or exposed to an animal that carries rabies, early treatment before symptoms appear is important.

Rabies Precautions

  • Do not handle or touch live or dead feral animals, or wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes and coyotes that can carry rabies.
  • If you see an animal with unusual or aggressive behavior, stay away and contact your local Animal Control officials.
  • Vaccinate animals when your dog or cat has reached 3 months of age, one year later, and every three years thereafter (using a vaccine approved with 3 year immunity), as required by state law.

Tips to Prevent Rabies

If You are Bitten, Scratched, or Have Contact with an Animal

Additional Resources

Mississippi state law requires the rabies vaccination to be given by a licensed veterinarian to all dog and cats over three months of age, again at one year of age, and at least every three years thereafter. Read the summary here

Links referenced
Poster: Rabies Risk, Prevention and Treatment    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/6405.pdf
Rabies information from the CDC    http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/
Read the summary here    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/14,916,142,pdf/LawSummary.pdf

Find this page at http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/index.cfm

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