Symptoms of rabies

Learn about the symptoms of rabies, what to look for and what to do if you think you have been exposed to rabies.

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Symptoms of rabies

Early rabies symptoms can feel like the flu and include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • anxiety or irritability

You may also feel pain, tingling or numbness around the area where an animal bit, scratched or licked you.

Symptoms worsen quickly as virus attacks the central nervous system. The neurologic symptoms can take two forms.

Furious rabies

Furious rabies is the more common type of rabies. Symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • seizures
  • confusion
  • hyperactivity
  • hallucinations
  • hydrophobia (fear of water)
  • aerophobia (fear of fresh air or drafts of air)
  • strange behaviours, such as biting other people

Dumb rabies

Dumb rabies occurs in about 20% of patients. Symptoms include:

  • weakness
  • paralysis (being unable to move)

Symptoms usually take about 20 to 60 days to appear, however this can range from several days to many months. How quickly symptoms appear partly depends on the:

  • location of the wound
  • severity of the wound
  • amount of virus spread by the animal

Rabies is fatal if it is not treated before symptoms develop. 

What to do if you think you have been exposed to rabies

Contact your health care provider or go to the hospital right away if you think you have been exposed to rabies.

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