Rabies Information

Rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus. The virus is carried in the saliva of infected domestic and wild mammals, and is usually spread through a bite. After the bite, there might not be any symptoms for weeks, or even years, but rabies can cause pain, fatigue, headache, fever, and irritability. If untreated, symptoms can progress to confusion, hallucinations, insomnia, seizures, and paralysis. Rabies is 100 percent fatal, if left untreated.

Although rabies cases are rare in the United States, they are still common in other parts of the world such as Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

Rabies Vaccine Information

Rabies vaccine is made from inactivated, or killed, rabies virus so it cannot cause rabies. Rabies vaccine can protect those at increased risk of rabies exposure, but it can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after exposure to the virus.

For people traveling to rabies-prevalent areas, the three-dose vaccine series must be completed before travel.

Rabies vaccine is given as an injection into the arm or thigh muscle, which is known as an intramuscular (IM) injection.

Who Should Receive the Rabies Vaccine?

  • International travelers, especially children, who are likely to come in contact with rabies virus or with rabid animal
  • Travelers who plan to spend time outdoors
  • Veterinarians and animal control or wildlife workers
  • Laboratory workers who work with the rabies virus

Rabies Vaccine Schedule


  • Three doses: First dose, followed by a second dose given 7 days after the first dose, followed by a third dose given 21 or 28 days after the first dose
  • People with repeated exposure may need a booster dose.

Rabies vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Side Effects

Mild-to-Moderate Problems

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Headache, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, and dizziness
  • Hives, pain in the joints, and fever

Severe Problems (Rare)

  • Deafness
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
    • -Difficulty breathing
    • -Wheezing
    • -Hives
    • -Pale skin
    • -Fast heartbeat
    • -Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.

It is extremely rare for this vaccine to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, call the doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

Who Should Not Receive the Rabies Vaccination

  • Those with moderate or severe illness (for example, a severe cold, flu or infection of the sinuses or lungs) should not receive the vaccine until symptoms of the illness improve.
  • Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should ask their doctor if they should receive the vaccine.
  • Those who previously had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not be vaccinated.
  • Those with a weakened immune system should talk with a doctor before receiving the vaccine. This may apply to several diseases and conditions, including:
    • -HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • -Are receiving long-term treatment with steroids (such as prednisone)
    • -Treatment with steroids (such as prednisone) for 2 weeks or longer
    • -Cancer or cancer treatment

Additional Information

Tell your doctor or a healthcare provider if the person getting the vaccine has any severe allergies.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.

This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Be sure to contact your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider for more information about human papillomavirus. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health Information for International Travel 2008 Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Services, 2007.

Vaccine Information Statement: rabies vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ). January 12, 2006.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/default.htm. Accessed April 2008.

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