Animal Bites and Rabies

Rabies is often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. It affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans, and can be fatal.

More about rabies

In Northern Kentucky, there are approximately 650-700 animal bites each year, including dog, cat, ferret, bat, raccoon and horse bites. While most of these bites do not result in the spread of illness, rabies can be a concern.

If you have been bitten by an animal

If you have been bitten, scratched or exposed to an animal’s saliva:

  • Wash the wound right away with soap and water for 10 minutes.
  • Call your health care provider or go to a hospital emergency room depending on the severity of the wound. If you seek medical care, the health care provider treating your injury is required to report the bite to the Health Department.
  • Get a description of the animal that bit or scratched you or, if possible, confine the animal so it can be quarantined or tested.
  • Contact the local animal control officer for assistance if it is a stray or wild animal .
  • If you did not seek medical care, contact the Health Department at 859-341-4151 as soon as possible so steps can be taken to quarantine the animal or submit it for testing if warranted. You will need to provide information about where the bite occurred, the owner’s name and address (if applicable), the type of animal and the victim’s name and address.

Rabies bite investigations

Domestic animals

If a person was bitten by a domestic animal, the Health Department will work with the owner to enforce a quarantine period, generally 10 days. Animals may be quarantined at home or at local shelters.

A health inspector will observe the animal at the beginning and end of the quarantine period.

If the animal appears healthy at the end of the 10 days, it will be released. If the animal is not current on its vaccinations, a Notice to Vaccinate may be issued.

Wild animals 

If a person was bitten by a wild animal, efforts will be made to locate the animal and, if it is a species of concern, the animal will be submitted for rabies testing.

Rabies treatments

A vaccination is available to people who have already been exposed to an animal that tested positive for rabies or is unavailable for testing and it is nearly 100 percent successful in preventing rabies in humans. In Northern Kentucky, the Health Department collaborates with St. Elizabeth Healthcare to provide rabies vaccinations.

Pre-exposure vaccination is available for people who are at high risk for a rabies exposure such as veterinarians, laboratory personnel and animal control personnel.

More information

If you feel that you may have contracted rabies or have come in contact with an animal that may be infected with rabies, contact your health care provider and the Health Department at 859-341-4151.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kentucky Department for Public Health