Being bitten by an animal is a frightening and painful experience. A rabid animal can spread the rabies virus through a bite or by getting their saliva in your open wound. However, rabies is 100 percent preventable. Animal bites can cause infections other than rabies, so be sure to immediately clean the wound prior to seeking care.
Most biting animals do not have rabies. Your doctor or the Fairfax County Health Department can help determine if you may have been exposed to rabies. If you have been exposed, a series of shots given on specific days, called rabies PEP, can prevent you from developing the disease.
Rabies PEP must be given before someone exposed to rabies starts to develop symptoms of the disease. Once symptoms appear in a person, there is no treatment and the disease is 100 percent fatal. Early symptoms of rabies typically appear weeks to months after the exposure. This means that a rabies exposure is an urgent situation, but not an emergency. Symptoms include weakness, fever, headache and prickling or itching at the site of the bite. A list of health care providers in Fairfax District that offer rabies PEP is provided below.
If you or your doctor have questions about rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), contact the Health Department rabies program manager at 703-246-2433.
|Service Available||Facility Name||Address||Phone Number|
|Rabies Immunoglobulin (RIG)||Rabies Vaccine|
|✔||✔||HCA Reston Hospital Center||1850 Town Center Pkwy., Reston, VA 20290||703-689-9037|
|✔||Infectious Disease Travel Clinic||6226 Old Franconia Rd., Suite A, Alexandria VA 22310||703-313-5060|
|✔||Infectious Diseases Physicians||3289 Woodburn Rd., Suite # 200, Annandale, VA 22003||703-280-2836|
|✔||✔||Inova Alexandria Hospital||4230 Seminary Rd., Alexandria, VA 22304||703-504-3066|
|✔||✔||Inova Emergency Care Center - Fairfax||4315 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax, VA 22030||703-877-8200|
|✔||✔||Inova Emergency Care Center - Healthplex||6355 Walker Ln., Alexandria, VA 22310||703-797-6800|
|✔||✔||Inova Emergency Care Center - Reston||11901 Baron Cameron Ave., Reston VA 20190||703-668-8333|
|✔||✔||Inova Fairfax Hospital||3300 Gallows Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042||703-776-4001|
|✔||✔||Inova Fair Oaks Hospital||3600 Joseph Siewick Dr., Fairfax, VA 22033||703-391-3600|
|✔||✔||Inova Mount Vernon Hospital||2501 Parker’s Ln., Alexandria, VA 22306||703-664-7111|
|✔||✔||Kaiser Permanente Burke Medical Center||5999 Burke Commons Rd., Burke, VA 22015||703-249-7700|
|✔||✔||Kaiser Permanente Fair Oaks Medical Center||12255 Fair Lakes Pkwy., Fairfax, VA 22033||703-359-7878|
|✔||✔||Kaiser Permanente Falls Church Medical Center||201 N Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046||703-237-4000|
|✔||✔||Kaiser Permanente Reston Medical Center||1890 Metro Center Dr., Reston, VA 20190||703-359-7878|
|✔||✔||Kaiser Permanente Springfield Medical Center||6501 Loisdale Ct., Springfield, VA 22150||703-359-7878|
|✔||✔||Kaiser Permanente Tysons Corner Medical Center||8008 Westpark Dr., McLean, VA 22102||844-549-0597|
|✔||McLean Immediate Care||1340 Old Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, VA 22201||703-893-2273|
|✔||Passport Health - Centreville||13880 Braddock Rd., Suite 310, Centreville, VA 20121||703-671-3600|
|✔||Passport Health - Falls Church||7777 Leesburg Pike, Suite 208s, Falls Church, VA 22043||703-671-3600|
|✔||Passport Health - Reston||11862 Sunrise Valley Dr., Suite 101, Reston, VA 20191||703-671-3600|
|✔||Patient First - Alexandria||6311 Richmond Hwy., Alexandria, VA 22306||703-647-6087|
|✔||Patient First - Chantilly||918 Centreville Rd., Chantilly, VA 20151||703-657-6925|
|✔||Patient First - Fairfax||10100 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax, VA 22030||703-679-1876|
|✔||Safeway Pharmacies||Various locations||Call for availability|
|✔||Saratoga Medical Center||7839 Rolling Rd., Suite A, Springfield, VA 22153||703-569-6998|
|✔||Vienna Rexall Drug Center||150 Maple Ave. W, Vienna, VA 22180||703-938-7111|
|✔||Walgreens Pharmacies||Various locations||Call for availability|
List updated on May 16, 2018. Updates provided annually.
What to Expect During your Initial Health Care Visit for Rabies PEP
Since animal bites and scrapes can cause other types of infections, the health care provider should clean and dress your wound and, if needed, prescribe antibiotics.
If you have never had a rabies vaccine, your initial health care visit for rabies PEP will need to be at a site where rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) is available (see table above), because these are the only facilities that have both the RIG and vaccine that you need. RIG contains antibodies that will immediately attach to and stop the rabies virus. To make sure the antibodies can easily get to all the rabies virus, your doctor will give you multiple shots of RIG around the wound. To work, RIG needs to be given in a shot and cannot be poured on the wound.
If you have been given rabies shots before, be sure to tell your doctor because your treatment is very different from an unvaccinated person’s and is much easier. RIG should never be given to people who have completed a modern rabies vaccine series.
The second type of shot is called rabies vaccine. The vaccine will trigger your body to make your own antibodies against the rabies virus. The antibodies will then stop any rabies virus that was not stopped by the RIG. In an adult, the rabies vaccine must be given in a shoulder muscle, and the RIG cannot be put into the same shoulder. In an infant, the rabies vaccine can be given in the thigh, and the RIG cannot be put into the same thigh.
What to Expect During Your Follow-up Health Care Visits for Rabies PEP
If you have never had a rabies vaccine, you will need at least three more rabies shots that need to be given at 3 days, 7 days and 14 days after your first rabies vaccine to make sure your body quickly makes enough antibodies. If you are immunocompromised (e.g., have cancer, HIV or take certain medications) you will need an additional shot 28 days after your first rabies shot. If you have had rabies shots before, you will need only one more shot 3 days after your first rabies shot and nothing more.
Even with health care insurance, the full cost of the rabies PEP can be expensive. Rabies shots are available at all emergency departments in Fairfax District on a walk-in basis. However, emergency department visits can be costly. Other facilities in Fairfax Health District offer rabies vaccination that may be less expensive. These providers may or may not keep vaccine in their facility. Shots may need to be ordered several days in advance of your scheduled visit. Patients should contact the providers as far as possible in advance before they need their rabies shot so that it will be there when they go for treatment. Patients may want to call their insurance company to understand what costs are or are not covered before deciding where to seek care.
What If I Am Uninsured; How Do I Receive Rabies PEP?
PEP is available for people who do not have insurance and who have been potentially exposed to rabies. For more information, please contact the Health Department rabies program manager at 703-246-2433.
Future Rabies Exposures
Now that you have completed your rabies PEP, if you are ever potentially exposed to a rabid animal again you will not need RIG; however, you will need to receive two rabies booster vaccines to fully protect you from the rabies virus.