Rabies: Animal Bites

General Information

Although animal bites are not officially notifiable by state statute, they occur commonly and carry a risk of infection with various disease agents. Animal bite wounds should be washed immediately and thoroughly with soap and water. A health care provider should be promptly consulted about the possible need for antibiotic treatment and tetanus vaccination.

Because of the possibility of rabies virus transmission, the biting animal should be captured if it is safe to do so. In the case of an owned domestic animal, information on the owner and location of the animal should be obtained.

DO NOT DESTROY OR RELEASE AN ANIMAL THAT HAS BITTEN A PERSON

until one consults with a public health official. In nearly all cases, observation or testing of the animal
can eliminate the need to administer the series of injections to prevent rabies.

Information for Providers

Clinicians should know that reporting animal bites for the purpose of public health follow-up is not considered a confidentiality breach, nor is it a violation of HIPAA regulations. Bite reports can be made to the local public health department or to law enforcement.

Contact Information

Members of the public should contact their local health department (county or municipal) and their health care provider regarding animal bite/rabies concerns.

During off-hours, animal bite calls may be handled by local law enforcement personnel.

The Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section of the Division of Public Health offers consultation on situations involving potential human exposures to rabies 608-267-9003.

Wisconsin Local Health DepartmentsRegional officesTribal agencies

Last Revised: October 5, 2021