Rabies: risk assessment, post-exposure treatment, management

Guidance on assessing risk following rabies exposure, post-exposure treatment, and public health management of a suspected rabies case in the UK.

Rabies is an encephalitis caused by rabies virus, a member of the rhabdovirus family. It is an acute viral infection that is almost invariably fatal once symptoms develop.

Transmission is generally through the bite of an infected animal, usually dogs, but also cats, bats and other wildlife. A course of rabies vaccination can prevent infection and death.

It is important that a medical practitioner assesses all animal bites, especially:

  • bat bites in the UK
  • any other animal bites overseas

Diagnosis of rabies in the early stages is often difficult as symptoms may be non-specific.

Clinical rabies is a notifiable disease in England.

For pre-exposure vaccination advice, see Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book, chapter 27 on rabies.

For further assistance

Please contact the Rabies and Immunoglobulin service or your local health protection team. The Rabies and Immunoglobulin service is for healthcare professionals only. Members of the public should contact their GP or local health protection team.

Rabies notifications

  1. Rabies in northern Greece

    • News story
  2. Rabies in France, update December 2015

    • News story

Rabies post-exposure treatment guidelines

Rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis (non-travel)

This form is only for non-travel related pre-exposure rabies vaccine requests.

Human rabies: managing a suspected or confirmed case

Published 30 June 2014
Last updated 8 February 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added new guidance on 'Rabies: administration of vaccine and immunoglobulin' to 'Rabies post-exposure treatment guidelines' section.
  2. Added guidelines for requesting pre-exposure prophylaxis
  3. Added request form for pre-exposure vaccine (non-travel).
  4. Updated rabies post exposure risk assessment form and calendar (v19) and new letter for rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin batch SRC16187.
  5. Added guidance for administration of rabies immunoglobulin.
  6. Updated to include 'Rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin: administering Ig SRCN0820.
  7. Updated to include 'Rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin: administering Ig BP08947111P'.
  8. Updated to include 'Rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin: administering Ig SRCN0510'.
  9. First published.