Harnett County,
North Carolina

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Rabies Information

1 year rabies vaccinations are given Monday,Tuesday Thursday, and Friday at 11:00 am till 11:45 am by appointment only at a cost of $6.00

Rabies vaccines are required by North Carolina law ( G.S. 130A-185. ) for any dog or cat over the age of 16 weeks or 4 months. Regardless of whether your animal is strictly inside, penned, or tied outside, this is the law. This actually serves two purposes. All domesticated animals need to be protected from rabies, and it is not uncommon for raccoons and even bobcats to wander into a yard and fight the resident pet over who gets to eat from the food bowl. Bats are also carriers of rabies, and people commonly find them in their homes. There goes the safety net for inside pets! The second purpose for vaccinating for rabies is a tag is received with each vaccine. These tags are to be worn by the animal at all times. The tags are visible proof that the animal has an owner, and the tag number can easily be traced back to that owner.


It is that time of year in North Carolina when people are having encounters with bats in their homes or other dwellings. Between 1 May and 1 August buildings are commonly colonized by maternal or nursery bat colonies. When the young bats begin to fly they may find access to the living space through small openings (from attics, chimneys, behind walls, new construction, etc.).

The Communicable Disease Branch and North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health would like to remind you that if more than one bat is found in a

living space there may be an infestation in the dwelling that will require a further investigation. In all cases of bats in a living space, a risk assessment of

people and pets (http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/lhds/manuals/rabies/docs/bat_exp_assess.pdf) must be conducted by the local health department

(communicable disease nurse and animal control) or the communicable disease branch consultants to determine if submission of the bat(s )for testing is

appropriate. If some of the potentially exposing bats are/were not available for testing then testing of a subset of bats is not appropriate. The protocol for

submission of bats to the NC State Laboratory of Public Health is located at


Virology / Serology - Rabies Virus

The Rabies Laboratory at the NCSLPH is the sole source for diagnostic rabies testing in North Carolina. This service is available to all health care providers within the state. Only animals that have potentially exposed a person, household pet, or livestock to rabies should be submitted. Exposure is defined as a bite or contamination of scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes with infectious saliva. Individuals wishing to submit small rodents, rabbits, or surveillance animals must receive prior approval from either the Laboratory or the State Public Health Veterinarian. Submission of specimens for rabies testing must meet the established testing criteria. Specimens submitted for testing that fail to meet the testing policy will be rejected and destroyed.

Specimen Acceptance Policy

Testing resources are reserved for situations where the testing outcome will influence patient management decisions. Terrestrial animal submissions are limited to significant rabies vector species that expose humans, livestock, or unvaccinated pets. Exposure is defined as a bite that breaks the skin or contact of mucus membranes or broken skin with either animal saliva or nervous tissue. Significant rabies vector terrestrial species include raccoons, skunks, foxes, most other carnivores, and woodchucks. Domestic animals exhibiting signs of rabies and wild animals that have potentially exposed a person, unvaccinated pet, or livestock to rabies should be submitted for testing without delay.

Dogs, cats and ferrets that do not exhibit signs of rabies and which bite people, pets or livestock should not be euthanized and instead should be confined and observed for 10 days, unless circumstances demand otherwise. If a dog or cat shows no clinical signs of rabies after ten days of observations, one can be assured that the animal was not shedding virus at the time of the exposure. Dogs, cats and ferrets that survive the 10-day quarantine period should not be submitted to the rabies laboratory for testing. Conversely, if the dog, cat or ferret does not survive the 10-day quarantine period, the specimen should be submitted to the rabies laboratory for testing.

Wild animals (unlike dogs, cats, and ferrets) should not be held for observation following an exposure, but rather should be caught, euthanized immediately, and the head submitted for rabies virus detection. Bats that have interaction with humans should be submitted for testing only if the contact involves:

1. A bite.

2. Handling where a bite cannot be ruled out.

3. Bats found in a domicile with access to humans while they were asleep, unconscious, or incapacitated.

If one or more bats escape capture, do not submit the remaining bats since recommendations regarding post-exposure prophlyaxis will not be altered by testing only some of the bats.

Surveillance animals will be tested only with prior approval. Low risk animals (i.e., rabbits, squirrels, and small rodents) rarely require testing and should not be submitted without prior approval from either our laboratory or the State Public Health Veterinarian at (919) 733-3419.

Specimen Collection

Animals should be euthanized in a manner that will not destroy the brain tissue which is examined in the diagnosis of rabies. Thus, only the animal’s head should be submitted for diagnostic purposes. Small animals no larger than a squirrel may be submitted whole. For bats, the whole dead animal must be submitted and should be secured in a clear container such as a zip-lock bag or equivalent. The animal’s neck should then be severed at the midpoint between the base of the skull and the shoulders. Treat any specimens with fleas, ticks, maggots, ants, etc. prior to packing. Place each animal specimen for rabies diagnosis in a separate leak-proof container (i.e., can, double plastic bag, etc.) and securely seal. Place this container in a sturdy shipping carton (use sturdy styrofoam if possible) and enclose refrigerants to keep the specimen cold. If white buckets are used, additional refrigerants will be needed due to lack of insulation. Specimens should be kept cold but NOT FROZEN. DO NOT USE LOOSE WET ICE OR DRY ICE. Specimens inadvertently frozen are still suitable for testing; however, testing may be delayed due to thawing. Submit specimens to the rabies laboratory at the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health as soon as possible. If shipment will be delayed, refrigerate specimens prior to shipment.

Large animal heads such as cows, horses, deer, large dogs, etc. should be submitted to our rabies laboratory via the Dept. of Agriculture’s Rollins Animal Disease Diagnostics Laboratory in Raleigh (919) 733-3986 or one of their satellite laboratories throughout the state:

  • Hoyle C. Griffin Animal Diagnostic Lab (Monroe) - (704) 289-6448
  • Northwestern Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (Elkin) - (336) 526-2499
  • Western Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (Arden) - (828) 684-8188

These laboratories will remove the brain tissue and forward the tissue to the SLPH rabies laboratory for testing. Contact the agriculture labs directly for specimen submission information. The anatomical tissues that the SLPH requires for a satisfactory rabies test include either hippocampus or cerebellum and a complete cross section of the brain stem. Specimens fixed in formalin cannot be tested and will be reported as unsatisfactory.

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