Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Most rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle and dogs most often reported rabid.
Rabies virus infects the central nervous system and can cause death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
(CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION)