Skip to Main Content

COVID-19 Updates, Testing and Vaccines

Stay up to date

Disease Control Archive Detail

Focus on Health: Rabies

Printer Friendly

What is rabies? Rabies is a preventable disease that is caused by a virus. The disease is usually found among wild animals; however it can be passed to pets and humans. Raccoons and bats are the most common carriers of rabies in Western North Carolina.

How is it spread? The rabies virus is usually passed in the saliva from the bite of an infected animal. Although not as common, rabies can also be passed through licking, when saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.

What are the symptoms of rabies in animals? Some animals may show no symptoms at all. Others may have all of these symptoms:

  • Raccoons and bats are the most common carriers of rabies in WNC.Act unusually mean or vicious
  • Stumble or fall
  • Refuse to eat
  • Not move for long periods of time
  • Wild animals may lose their fear of people

How Can I Protect Myself?

  • Keep your pets and horses up to date on rabies vaccinations. (The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office Animal Services Division offers low cost vaccination clinics for cats and dogs - rabies shots are just $7.)
  • Call animal control to remove any stray or wild animals from your neighborhood. Do not try to remove or handle them yourself!
  • If you find a bat in your home, close off the room and call animal control to remove it.
  • Secure your home and other occupied spaces to prevent bats from entering.
  • Do not feed, handle, or adopt wild animals.
  • Teach children not to handle wild animals and to avoid contact with animals they are not familiar with.
  • If you are traveling abroad, avoid wild animals and dogs.

What if my pet or I are bitten?

  • If your pet is bitten by a wild animal:
    • take the pet to a veterinarian for care right away.
    • call animal control to search for the wild animal.
  • If you are bitten or think you may have come in contact with a rabid animal:
    • wash your hands and affected areas immediately with soap and water.
    • call your doctor or Health Department right away.
    • call animal control to remove the animal.
  • If a child, a mentally disabled person or an intoxicated person is found in a room with a bat:
    • seek medical care for them immediately to be sure they have not been exposed to rabies.
    • call animal control to remove the animal.

What else is important to know?

  • Once symptoms of rabies appear a person rarely survives.
  • If you suspect that you have been in contact with a rabid animal call your doctor immediately!
  • Bites from bats can be very small and hard to see. Let animal control remove a bat from your home and test it for rabies.

For more information about rabies, visit