What is it?

Rabies is a disease caused by exposure to saliva or nerve tissue of an animal infected with the rabies virus or other lyssavirus.

The majority of exposures occur in travellers visiting places where disease is endemic (e.g Asia, Africa)

What to look for

Initial symptoms are usually non-specific and can include cough, fever, headache, myalgia, tiredness and vomiting. Disorientation, anxiety, bizarre behaviour, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva) and hyperactivity can then occur before sudden death.

How is it transmitted?

Disease can occur after a scratch or bite that has broken the skin, or via direct contact with a person’s mucosa (nose, eye or mouth)


Rabies is a vaccine preventable disease. Pre-exposure prophylaxis is often recommended for those travelling to Rabies prone areas, as well as for those who work in an at-risk occupation such as bat-handlers and veterinarians.

Post-exposure treatment should be commenced as soon as possible. In cases of rabies exposure when prior immunisations have not been administered, treatment with Human Rabies Immunoglobulin (HRIG) and immunisation is recommended.


Author: Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Date: September 2018

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.