Over the past 100 years, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of human rabies cases due to the availability of a vaccine and vigilant surveillance by public health officials. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health investigates rabies cases and quarantines exposed animals to prevent the spread of the virus.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. There are two forms of rabies: (1) dumb rabies, in which an animal acts sick, does not eat and is lethargic and (2) furious rabies, in which an animal shows aggressive and vicious behavior.
The vast majority of rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals such as skunks, bats, foxes, and raccoons. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of the reported rabies cases. Cattle, cats, and dogs are the domestic species most often reported as rabid.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy leading to death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hyper-salivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
Rabies in Domestic Animals (2013)