Animal Bites/Rabies

What is rabies?

Rabies is a disease that affects the brain and is caused by a virus. In humans rabies is always fatal.

How is rabies spread?

Rabies is most commonly spread through the bite of an infected (rabid) animal. It is also possible to become infected if the saliva of the infected animal gets directly into an open cut or wound, the eyes, mouth, or nose.

What kind of animals spread rabies?

Any mammal, wild or domestic can carry the rabies virus. Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes are much more likely to carry rabies. However, pets or farm animals such as dogs, cats, cattle, or horses can pass rabies on to people as well. To prevent the spread of rabies many pets such as dogs, cats, and ferrets are vaccinated for the disease. If there is ever a bite exposure, if possible, it will be important to know the animal’s vaccination status.

What should you do if you are bitten?

Following any bite by a rabid animal it is important to immediately wash the area with soap and water. Scott County Health Department recommends that you report the animal bite with Scott County Humane Society Animal Control and then immediately contact your physician.

Is there a special concern about bats and rabies?

YES. In fact most rabies cases today are caused by the rabies virus carried by bats. If you are bitten by a bat, wash the area and contact your doctor, as you would if bitten by any other animal. Whenever possible, the bat should be caught and sent to a laboratory for testing. The tricky part is that while most people know they have been bitten, in some cases bat bites may not be easily seen or felt. If you awaken to find a bat in your room, the room of an unattended child, a person who is mentally impaired, or an intoxicated person you should contact your doctor.

To learn more about what to do in situations involving bats please visit:

What will my doctor do?

Your doctor will work with you to determine your level of exposure and whether or not treatment will be needed. Your doctor will use tools and resources available through Scott County Health Department and the Iowa Department of Public Health to help make this decision.

Where can I learn more about rabies?

Both the Centers for Disease Control and the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services are good sources of Rabies information.

Where can I learn about state and local codes and ordinances for animal bites/rabies?

What types of services are offered through the Scott County Health Department Animal Bite Investigation and Control Program?

The Scott County Health Department:

  • Contracts with the Scott County Humane Society to investigate all animal bites in Scott County
  • Works with patients and physicians to determine the risk of rabies, and the need for the rabies' shots, after a bite has occurred
  • Contracts with Scott County Humane Society to answer questions about animal control issues in rural Scott County: barking, harassment by animals, animals at large, etc.