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Veterans Health Administration


VA Urges Vets: Consider Possible Rabies Exposure



Applies to Vets Bitten, Exposed to Dogs, certain other Animals

A United States soldier recently died of rabies several months after being bitten by a rabid dog in Afghanistan.

Veterans who were deployed in the previous 18 months, and were bitten or had contact with the saliva from a warm-blooded animal such as a dog, cat, bat, fox, skunk, raccoon, mongoose or jackal could be at risk for rabies.

If you were deployed in the last 18 months and you had an animal bite or contact with wet animal saliva, or had a bat in your sleeping quarters, please talk to your VA provider about this as soon as possible.

If you were exposed to rabies, you may not have any symptoms.

You must be evaluated to determine if you need to be vaccinated against rabies.

Rabies is a viral disease that leads to a fatal brain infection. It is transmitted from infected animals to people through bites and exposure to saliva. Rabies is preventable if you are vaccinated before you get sick.

Rabies is spread by direct exposure to a rabid animal. The exposure is nearly always through a bite, but it can also be transmitted if a rabid animal scratches a person or if the animal’s saliva comes into contact with broken skin or mucous membranes (e.g. mouth, lips, nostrils).

Despite the common belief that rabid animals are easily identified by foaming at the mouth and aggressive behavior, infected animals may not have any apparent symptoms or behave in an unusual manner.


If you were exposed to rabies, you may not have any symptoms. By the time any symptoms appear, rabies often cannot be successfully treated.

As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, hallucinations, slight or partial paralysis, anxiety, confusion, increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing, and insomnia. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.

All OEF/OIF Vets who have had animal exposure in the past 18 months while deployed should contact their VA health care provider. Locate your nearest VA medical center.

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