Rabies is a disease that can be transmitted from mammals to people and infects the brain and central nervous system. The rabies virus is normally transmitted through contact with the saliva or brain/nervous system tissue of an infected animal, and bites are the most common modes of transmission. Rabies in humans is 100 percent preventable with prompt medical care, so it is important to seek medical attention after a possible exposure. Otherwise, rabies is nearly always fatal in people once clinical signs appear.

The signs of animal rabies include changes in behavior, general sickness, problems swallowing, increased saliva, wild animals appearing abnormally tame or sick, animals that bite at everything if excited, difficulty moving, paralysis and death.

All species of mammals are susceptible to rabies infection, but the wild animals most often implicated in carrying rabies in the U.S. are skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes. Skunks and bats are the most common wildlife carriers in Kansas. Cattle, dogs, cats and ferrets can also carry rabies, so taking care to vaccinate and control pets is important.

Public health and animal health officials collaborate to educate the public and prevent the disease in people and animals. In Kansas, K.A.R. 28-1-13 and K.A.R. 28-1-14 regulate rabies control, isolation of suspect animals, and possession of certain kinds of wildlife. For the state of Kansas, the Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory conducts animal rabies testing. Confirmed cases are reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) which conducts a follow-up investigation for each case.