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Graphic illustration of wildlife that can potentially transmit rabies to humans, including a fox, bat, raccoon, skunk, and mongoose

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a rare but fatal disease caused by a virus that is transmitted to humans from infected animals, usually through a bite or scratch.1

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and is almost always fatal once a person starts to have symptoms.1 Each year, this vaccine-preventable disease is responsible for approximately 59,000 deaths globally.1 That’s approximately one person dying from rabies every 9 minutes. Worldwide, 40% of people infected with rabies are children under the age of 15 years.2 In the U.S., deaths from rabies are rare. However, about 55,000 persons are treated for potential rabies exposure annually.1

How to spot a rabid animal

You can’t always tell if an animal is rabid just by looking at it. Wild animals have a natural fear of humans, so if one approaches you or doesn’t run away, there may be something wrong with that animal. Look for signs of fearfulness, aggression, staggering, paralysis, seizures, or drooling more than normal. Others may act shy or timid, even uncharacteristically tame.3

If you spot an animal like this, stay away and immediately report it to local animal control. Be careful as well around domestic animals. Do not approach or touch any animal you do not know.

What happens when you have rabies

Rabies is a fatal disease. If you are exposed to rabies, you need to seek medical care right away. By the time you feel symptoms, it will be too late. Onset of symptoms and timing may vary depending on the rabies virus strain and where on the body the exposure occurred.4,5

Symptoms by stage

  • 5 days to > 2 years
    Virus begins traveling toward the nervous system

    There are often no symptoms

  • 0-10 days

    • Graphic of a head silhouette with thermometer and sweat drops representing fever Fever
    • Graphic of a head silhouette with bubbles and heaving to ilustrate nausea and vomiting Nausea and vomiting
    • Graphic of a head silhouette with lightning bolts representing headache Headache
    • Graphic of a hand with a bite wound, a flame, and lines coming from the wound site representing tingling and burning Tingling and burning at the bite site

    Symptoms may also include: loss of appetite, general discomfort, loss of energy

  • 2-7 Days

    • Graphic of an arm cross section with muscle next to a scale set on Muscle weakness
    • Graphic of a head silhouette with jarring lines representing agitation Hyper-excitability and agitation
    • Graphic of a head silhouette with stars representing confusion and delirium Confusion and delirium
    • Graphic of water droplet with a line crossed through it representing hydrophobia (irrational fear of water) Hydrophobia (irrational fear of water)

    Symptoms may also include: hyperventilation, low blood oxygen, loss of speech, lack of coordination, hallucinations, anxiety, depression, paralysis, throat spasms

  • 5-14 days

    • Graphic of a head silhouette representing slow, shallow, or interrupted breathing Slow, shallow, or interrupted breathing
    • Graphic of a heart with interruption lines to represent abrupt loss of heart function Abrupt loss of heart function
    • Graphic of a heart with instruments representing low blood pressure Low blood pressure
    • Graphic of a heart showing EKG lines surrounded by movement lines representing fluttering or rapid heart rate Fluttering or racing heart rate

    Symptoms may also include: pituitary dysfunction, coma

    • Graphic of lungs with one smaller than the other representing collapsed lungs Collapsed lungs
    • Graphic of blood cells representing blood clots Blood clots
    • Graphic of virus and bacteria representing secondary infections Secondary infections

Worried about potential exposure to rabies?

If you have been in contact with an animal that you suspect has rabies, especially if you have been bitten or scratched, seek immediate medical attention.6

In individuals who have been exposed to the virus, rabies is 100% vaccine-preventable with appropriate medical care.7

If you work or travel in areas where you are at higher risk for rabies exposure, you may want to consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination. You still need treatment after a bite or scratch from a potentially rabid animal, but pre-exposure rabies vaccination can provide a level of protection in case treatment is not immediately available.8 Ask your doctor if this makes sense for you.

  1. Pieracci EG, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68(23):524-528. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6823e1
  2. World Health Organization. Rabies. Accessed April 15, 2021.
  3. American Veterinary Medical Association. Rabies and your pet. Accessed April 14, 2021.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human Rabies Prevention—United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; 2010. Accessed June 28, 2021.
  5. Consales CA, Bolzan VL. J Venom Anim Toxins Incl Trop Dis. 2007;13(1):5-38. doi:10.1590/S1678-91992007000100002
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When to seek care. Accessed April 14, 2021.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How can you prevent rabies in people? Accessed April 14, 2021.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preexposure vaccinations. Accessed April 14, 2021.

Important Safety Information

  • People with a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to RabAvert or any of its ingredients should not receive RabAvert…


RabAvert is a vaccine approved for all age groups to help prevent rabies infection both before and after a suspected exposure.

…for protection before a potential exposure (PrEP) to the rabies virus. They should receive a different rabies vaccine if a suitable product is available. However, because rabies is almost always fatal if left untreated, the protection provided with RabAvert after a potential exposure (PEP) to the rabies virus outweighs the risks associated with a severe allergic reaction.

  • The ingredients of RabAvert, which could in rare cases, cause allergic reactions in some people, include egg and chicken proteins, processed bovine (cow) gelatin and trace amounts of neomycin, chlortetracycline, and amphotericin B. Let your healthcare professional know if you have had any issues, including allergic reactions, with any of these ingredients or with vaccines in general.
  • Severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, swelling of the brain and spinal cord; loss of movement or sensation due to nerve damage, such as inflammation of the brain or temporary loss of movement; Guillain-Barré Syndrome; inflammation of spinal cord; inflamed nerves of the eye; and multiple sclerosis have in very rare cases been reported.
  • RabAvert should be injected into muscle only. RabAvert injected into a vein may cause a reaction throughout the body, including shock.
  • Fainting can occur when injectable vaccines are used, including RabAvert. Your healthcare provider should put procedures in place to avoid falling injury and to restore blood flow to the brain after fainting.
  • Patients with a weakened immune system due to illness or the use of certain medications or treatments (such as radiation therapy, antimalarials, and corticosteroids) may have issues developing immunity. If such a patient is receiving RabAvert, then the healthcare professional may measure immune response through blood testing. Vaccination with RabAvert for protection before a potential exposure (PrEP) to the rabies virus should be delayed in anyone who is sick or recovering from an illness.
  • RabAvert contains albumin which is a protein found in human blood that carries an extremely remote risk for transmission of viral diseases, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare brain disorder. No cases of transmission of viral diseases or CJD have ever been identified for albumin.
  • Persons who have not been previously vaccinated against rabies will receive Human Rabies Immune Globulin (HRIG). HRIG should not be administered to persons who have been previously vaccinated as it may counteract the effect of the rabies vaccine. Let your healthcare provider know if you were previously vaccinated for rabies as you may not need HRIG.
  • Only use RabAvert while pregnant or breastfeeding if clearly needed. RabAvert was not studied in pregnant or lactating women so it is not known if RabAvert can cause any harm to the fetus, have any effect on ability to get pregnant, or whether it is passed through breast milk to infants (but many drugs are excreted in human milk).
  • There is no information on how RabAvert works when given at the same time as other vaccines.  
  • The most common side effects in clinical trials were reactions at the injection site, such as reddening, hardening, and pain; flu-like symptoms, such as lack of energy, tiredness, fever, headache, muscle pain, and feeling of discomfort; joint pain; dizziness; swelling of lymph nodes; upset stomach; and rash.
  • Vaccination before a potential exposure (PrEP) to the rabies virus does not remove the need for additional therapy after a suspected or known rabies exposure.
  • Seek the advice of a healthcare professional to help assess your specific level of risk if you are traveling to areas of high risk of rabies exposure; in frequent contact with the rabies virus or rabid animals, such as on the job; and/or are active outdoors and could encounter animals with rabies in the wild.
  • If you are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, seek medical attention right away before you have symptoms. Once symptoms are present, the rabies infection has spread through the body and survival is unlikely.

Uses for RabAvert

RabAvert is a vaccine approved for all age groups to help prevent rabies infection both before and after a suspected exposure. 

Patients should always ask their healthcare professionals for medical advice about the appropriate use of vaccines and adverse events. To report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS, contact Bavarian Nordic at 1-844-4BAVARIAN or the US Department of Health and Human Services by either
visiting or calling 1-800-822-7967.

Please see full Prescribing Information