Rabies (Hydrophobia)

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system of mammals. It is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. It can be fatal in humans unless treatment (rabies shots) is administered soon after a bite or other exposure. The vast majority of rabies cases in the United States each year occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. In New York City and New York State, animal rabies occurs primarily in raccoons, bats and skunks.

Raccoons in NYC can also get sick from canine distemper virus. Raccoons with distemper may look like they have rabies. They act lethargic, have a runny nose and eyes, may appear confused or disoriented or become aggressive.

Rabbits and small rodents (such as chipmunks, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rats and squirrels) are rarely found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to people. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of rabies, unless the animal appeared sick or was behaving in an unusual manner.

With the continuing identification of raccoons and other animals with rabies in all five boroughs of New York City, the Health Department reminds New Yorkers to avoid wild animals and to vaccinate their pets against rabies.

For more information on rabies, call 311.