Rabies in Texas

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Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease of the central nervous system. It is caused by the rabies virus. Each year in Texas, the virus is most frequently found in wild animals such as skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes, but cases of rabies in cats, dogs, cattle, horses, and goats are also confirmed. Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected animal.

For more information on rabies in Texas and related statistical data, visit Rabies | Texas DSHS.

Several Texas laws (Health & Safety Code, Chapters 81, 84, and 87) require information about notifiable conditions, including rabies in humans, to be provided to DSHS. Healthcare providers, hospitals, laboratories, schools, and others are required to report results for patients who are suspected of having a notifiable condition to their local or regional public health clinics. (Chapter 97.3, Title 25, Texas Administrative Code). Suspected cases of human rabies are immediately reportable to 1-800-705-8868. A list of notifiable conditions and guidelines on how to report them to local or regional health is located online at Notifiable Conditions | Texas DSHS.

Additional information about rabies can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rabies webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html.

Note: The inclusion of external links is for informational purposes only. The links do not represent an endorsement by Texas DSHS of any goods and/or services provided by these entities. These external sites may also not be accessible to people with disabilities.

Rabies Testing at DSHS Austin Laboratory

Routine testing of brain tissue is done by direct fluorescent antibody staining. In addition to diagnostic testing, the laboratory types all positive specimens by either monoclonal antibody staining or nucleotide sequencing to determine the variant of rabies virus present in the animal.

Typing information is used to follow the spread of rabies variants through animal populations and across the state. This information has been used to define the vaccine drop zones for the Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program (ORVP), which since 1995 has had the goal of creating zones of vaccinated wild animals to combat rabies epizootics (animal epidemics) in coyotes in south Texas and gray foxes in west Texas. 

​​​​​​​Testing Human Specimens

The Rabies Laboratory does not test human specimens. For information on serologic testing of antibody status (both human and animal blood specimens), please refer to: 

For more information about rabies serology testing of humans and animals, and who might require routine serological testing due to possible exposure to rabies, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the CDC Rabies Serology page at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/hcp/serology.html.

Testing Pets for Travel to Rabies-Free Countries

The DSHS Rabies Laboratory does not carry out rabies testing for pet passports. The Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization (FAVN) test is a virus neutralization assay required by many rabies-free countries to allow cats and dogs to qualify for a reduced quarantine period before entering the country. For more information on FAVN testing for pet travel, refer to: