Rabies can be transmitted through a scratch


Rabies is a contagious, rapid, and fatal virus-related disease. It occurs mainly in mammals and humans. Rabies is widespread almost all over the world.

The causative agent is a rhabdovirus. It causes various symptoms in humans and animals, mainly caused by inflammatory changes in the brain.
Rabies is a great danger to humans and animals.

Transmission of the disease

In addition to humans, all domestic animals are susceptible to rabies, e.g. dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, as well as many wild animals, especially the fox, but also badgers, martens and deer.
The rabies virus is generally excreted with the saliva of infected animals; The infection usually occurs through the bite of rabies-infected animals, but transmission through licking (saliva) and scratching (adhering saliva on the paws / claws!) is also possible.
The pathogen excreted with the saliva enters the body through wounds and tiny injuries to the skin or through the mucous membrane. Even with uncleaned fingers he can z. B. rubbed into the mucous membrane of the eye. The pathogen travels along the nerve path to the central nervous system (brain), where it multiplies intensively. From the brain, the virus spreads throughout the body, also reaching the salivary glands. Thus the cycle is closed.
Outwardly healthy animals can already be carriers of the rabies virus and infect other animals and people. In dogs, for example, the saliva may contain virus as early as 5 days before the symptoms appear.

incubation period

The time from the entry of the rabies virus into the organism to the appearance of the first visible signs of disease (incubation period) varies. It can be up to 200 days and varies between 14 and 60 days. It depends on the amount of virus ingested and where on the body the entry point is. Is z. B. the bite wound near the head, the pathway to the brain is very short for the pathogen, the incubation time is correspondingly shorter.
The very different development time of rabies in animals and humans makes it difficult to recognize this disease. Close observation of endangered animals is therefore urgently required.


With the animal

  • Change in behavior: restlessness or indifference
  • increased aggressiveness, wanderlust
  • Loss of the natural shyness of wild animals towards humans
  • Paralysis, death after four to ten days

Animals with rabies do not always attack other animals or humans. Sometimes they behave in a remarkably tame and trusting manner - a great danger for children! Caution is therefore required, especially with "trusting" game.

In humans

  • Nausea, vomiting, headache
  • light fever
  • Salivation, sweat of fear
  • Restlessness, fear of death, fits of anger
  • Convulsions, death after a few days

Current status of rabies

Germany has been free from terrestrial rabies since 2008. However, animals infected with rabies can enter Germany as part of an illegal import. Therefore, especially when traveling with animals, the animal health regulations (especially the existing effective vaccination against rabies) must be strictly adhered to. For example, Italy is currently not rabies-free. Another popular holiday destination, Turkey, is one of the non-listed third countries (see “Animals abroad”). Rabies is still common in Turkey. Between 2008 and 2009, a total of 365 cases of rabies were found in domestic and wild animals (source: Rabies-Bulletin-Europe).

Foxes killed by city hunters in the city of Munich are regularly sent to the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety for examination. Between 1993 and 2007 a total of 784 foxes were examined for rabies, the results were negative overall. An infection with rabies could not be proven in any of the foxes sent in. Current results from the hunting year 2008 (April 1, 2008 - March 31, 2009) have shown that of 49 foxes examined, no rabies infection could be detected in any fox.

Measures to combat rabies

  • Notification requirement
    All cases of rabies and suspected rabies (wild and domestic animal rabies) must be reported to the official veterinarian (veterinary office) immediately.
  • Killing and Disposal
    If rabies or the suspicion is officially established, the veterinary office can order the immediate killing and harmless disposal of the suspected animals. Dogs and cats suspected of having an epidemic must always be killed because they pose a particular risk to humans. However, if these animals have bitten a person, the authorities can order an observation until the diagnosis is established. The person concerned must know quickly and reliably whether the animal suspected of the disease really is rabies. The result is usually available within a few days.
  • Measures in the event of suspected contagion
    Dogs and cats are to be killed immediately if it can be assumed that they have had contact with animals suffering from rabies; in the event of contact with animals suspected of rabies, the authorities can order the killing. This does not apply to vaccinated dogs and cats. You can only be observed by the authorities and immediately vaccinated again against rabies. However, the prerequisite is that the animals are vaccinated against rabies at least 4 weeks and no longer than 1 year before coming into contact with rabies or suspicious animals.
  • Lockdown measures
    If rabies or the suspicion of rabies is determined, the epidemic may already have spread in the vicinity of the animal husbandry, the shooting, killing or discovery site. The veterinary office is creating a vulnerable district to prevent the rabies from spreading further. Dogs and cats are not allowed to run free in this district unless they are under effective vaccination protection.

Protection options

Dogs and cats that have arrived are not to be accepted into the house community immediately. Great care is required with dead game or animals that show trusting behavior. If possible "hands off", in no case touch with unprotected hands or even catch this "tame" game, consider it as a playmate and take it home with you. Children should be taught about this.
Pets can be protected against rabies by regularly repeated preventive vaccination.
For the preventive vaccination of pets against rabies, effective and harmless vaccines have been available for years. Their use cannot contribute to the fight against wild rabies carried by the fox, but the number of cases of rabies in these animals can be reduced considerably by vaccinating dogs and cats, as well as cattle, horses and sheep as much as possible. The vaccination of pets also serves indirectly to protect people.

Educating the population and recommending an extensive annual vaccination for dogs and cats are urgent tasks for all those responsible. If there is a suspicion of an epidemic, there are precise rules: the medical officer must be notified in every case of epidemic or suspicion; if a person has been bitten under suspicious circumstances, including the official veterinarian.

Rules of conduct after a bite by an animal infected with rabies

  • Wash out every bite wound immediately and thoroughly. Use a soap solution or any readily available disinfectant. If nothing else is available, thorough washing of the wound with clean water is indicated
  • Consult your family doctor or the closest doctor who can be contacted who will take care of the final wound care and, if necessary, initiate the vaccination against rabies.
  • Do not be afraid of vaccination, i.e. vaccination against rabies. The earlier the vaccination is carried out after a possible infection, the more certain the success is. Every single day is precious.
  • Vaccination may also be necessary if the person has had contact with an animal suspected of rabies that has escaped and has not been examined as a result. Preventive vaccinations are also possible.
  • Always think of rabies when the disease patterns in animals are unclear. It is better to suspect rabies once more than to recognize the disease too late.

All rabies control measures are designed to protect pets. Protecting pets from rabies also means protecting humans from this terrible disease.