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Learn about rabies, who is at risk, and how it spreads.

About rabies

Rabies disease is an infection caused by a virus that affects the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves). Once symptoms start, people usually die from rabies.

Learn more about rabies.

Who is most at risk?

People who have close contact with animals and lab workers who handle the rabies virus are at higher risk.

If you’re travelling, the risk of rabies depends on where you’re travelling, how long you’re travelling, what activities you’re doing, and the medical care in that area. Check with a travel immunization clinic for more information.

Children are at high risk because they’re more likely to approach animals and they might not tell someone if they get a bite or scratch. They’re also more likely to have a high-risk animal bite (such as a bite on the face or more serious wounds).

How it spreads

Rabies disease spreads from the saliva (spit) of an infected animal to humans through a bite, scratch, or a lick on an open wound.

The most common animals that carry rabies in Canada are skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes.

Dogs are the most common animal that carry rabies in Asia and Africa, where most rabies deaths in humans happen.

Current as of: June 30, 2023
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
Our work takes place on historical and contemporary Indigenous lands, including the territories of Treaty 6, Treaty 7 & Treaty 8 and the homeland of the Métis Nation of Alberta and 8 Métis Settlements. We also acknowledge the many Indigenous communities that have been forged in urban centres across Alberta.