The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers this guidance to veterinarians dealing with rabies-infected livestock:

For client animals with up-to-date rabies vaccinations
Livestock exposed to a rabid animal and currently vaccinated with a USDA-approved vaccine for that species should be revaccinated immediately and observed for 45 days.

If an exposed animal is to be slaughtered for consumption, it should be done immediately after exposure. Barrier precautions should be used by persons handling the animal, and all tissues should be cooked thoroughly.

Historically, federal guidelines for meat inspectors have required that any animal known to have been exposed to rabies within eight months be rejected for slaughter. USDA Food and Inspection Service meat inspectors should be notified if such exposures occur in food animals before slaughter.

Multiple rabid animals in a herd or herbivore-to-herbivore transmission is uncommon. Therefore, restricting the rest of the herd if a single animal has been exposed to rabies usually isn’t necessary.

 For client animals without up-to-date rabies vaccinations

Unvaccinated livestock should be euthanized immediately. If the animal is not euthanized, the animal should be closely observed for six months. Any illness while under observation should be reported immediately to the local health department.

If signs suggestive of rabies develop, euthanize the animal and ship the head for testing. Multiple cases in a herd or herbivore-to-herbivore transmission is uncommon. Therefore, restricting the rest of the herd if a single animal has been exposed to or infected by rabies usually isn’t necessary.

Treatment for humans

Until the 1980s, treatment for rabies in humans consisted of a long series of very painful injections, generally in the abdomen, says James Alexander, regional zoonosis control veterinarian, Texas Department of State Health Services. That particular area was chosen for administration because it could swell and not be as uncomfortable or noticeable as other parts of the body.

“There was a lot of tissue reaction, however. Now, we use different products and there’s a lot less reaction, and it’s not as painful,” he adds.

In addition, fewer injections are needed today.

“Up until two years ago, the series consisted of five vaccinations (the last one on week four). But, now, it’s just four shots, which can all be given within a two-week period,” Alexander says.

The first shots are a dose of vaccine (in the upper arm) and a dose of human rabies immunoglobulin. A second vaccination is given on day three, and the third injection a week after that. Number four is given two weeks after the first treatment.

Heather Smith Thomas is a Salmon, ID-based rancher and freelancer.


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