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Rabies Information
About Rabies
Incubation Period
Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of mammals. It is almost always fatal once symptoms begin to show. Rabies is usually transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. The virus multiplies at the site of the bite and after a few days moves up the nerves to the brain.

After Incubation
After reaching the brain, the rabies virus moves to the salivary gland. The presence of rabies virus in saliva enables the virus to infect another animal or person. Rabies virus usually produces behavioral changes in animals that make them more disposed to bite. This facilitates transmission to another animal.

Other Methods of Infection
Rabies can also be transmitted when infected saliva comes in contact with an open wound, the eye, or the mouth. There have been occasional transmissions between humans through cornea or organ transplants. A scratch from a rabid animal could transmit the disease because there might be virus on its nails. Petting a rabid animal has never been shown to transmit rabies to humans.

High Risk Animals
Indiana animals considered to be at highest risk of transmitting rabies to humans include bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.

Low Risk Animals
Dogs and cats can also transmit rabies that they have acquired from wildlife, but pets are rarely found rabid in Indiana. Reptiles and birds never get rabies.

Theoretically, rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. can transmit rabies, but bites from these animals are not considered a rabies risk in Indiana at this time. Your local health department can help you evaluate the risk of rabies following an animal bite.

Brief History of Rabies in Indiana
Until the early 1960’s, most of the rabies cases in Indiana were dogs, cats, and animals bitten by dogs and cats. After pet vaccination increased and animal control programs were established, dog and cat rabies decreased rapidly. From the 1960s to 1988 skunks were the most commonly found rabid animals in Indiana.

After 1988 bats became the most common rabid animal. Rabid bats have been found somewhere in the state every year since 1965. Rabies in skunks has been restricted to counties in far south central Indiana, where rabies in skunks continues to be transmitted at a very low level.

The chart below lists (as of July 2011) the number of each species found rabid in Indiana since 1962 and the last year in which a rabies case in that species occurred:
Species Last Year Positive Number Positive Since 1962
Bat 2009 >500
Cat 1984 47
Cow 1986 79
Dog 1989
Fox 1990 99
Goat 1967 1
Ground Hog 1983 2
Horse 2002 16
Opossum 1968 1
Pig 1967 4
Raccoon 1979 4
Sheep 1982 1
Skunk 2004 824

Contact Us
Porter County Health Department
Environmental Division

155 Indiana Ave.
Suite 205
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Ph: 219-465-3525, option 5