Some careers and activities can put a person at increased risk for rabies exposures. This includes people who work directly with animals that could have rabies and those who travel to parts of the world where rabies is common and access to medical care is limited.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis is getting rabies vaccine doses before coming into contact with the rabies virus. This can help protect a person against unrecognized rabies exposures or in situations where rabies post-exposure prophylaxis may be delayed.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis consists of a 1mL injection of rabies vaccine given intramuscularly in the deltoid muscle followed by a booster dose 7 days later. Follow-up to maintain a target rabies antibody titer depends on a person’s risk level. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s recommendations on rabies vaccination guidance outline who should receive pre-exposure prophylaxis and the testing that may be needed to ensure that one remains protected over time.
What if I was exposed to rabies after receiving pre-exposure prophylaxis?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis does not eliminate the need for post-exposure prophylaxis in the event of an exposure, but it does simplify post-exposure prophylaxis.
A person who has received pre-exposure prophylaxis for rabies should always seek medical care following any potential rabies exposure to seek advice and determine if rabies boosters are necessary. If the event is indeed an exposure, that person should receive two doses of vaccine, given on days 0 and 3.
A person who received pre-exposure vaccination for rabies should never receive rabies immune globulin.