Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The majority of potential rabies exposures occur in travellers, visiting places where the disease is still endemic (e.g Asia, Africa) The Australian bat lyssavirus is closely related to rabies and is found in bats. The incubation period for rabies varies from 5 days to many years.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.

Rabies vaccines

Fortunately rabies is a vaccine preventable disease, and a number of inactivated rabies vaccines are available in Australia.(see resources- Australian Immunisation Handbook chapter)

The management of children with rabies-prone wounds varies depending on whether or not they had received pre-exposure prophylaxis. In the case of no prior prophylaxis, additional treatment with Human Rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) is recommended. The immunoglobulin is prepared from the plasma of hyperimmunised human donors. The details on dose and administration are detailed in the RCH Clinical Practice Guidelines.(see Resources)


Australian Immunisation Handbook [Rabies chapter]

Better Health Channel [Lyssavirus]

Clinical Practice Guideline [Rabies]


Reviewed by: Nigel Crawford (Paediatrician, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne)
Date: July 2015
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.

Melbourne University

Welcome to MVEC

The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) is a new web-based initiative, providing up-to-date immunisation information for healthcare professionals, parents and the public.

It is a collaboration between The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and its Melbourne Children’s campus partners (Murdoch Children's Research Institute and The University of Melbourne) and Monash Health.

MVEC aims to address common queries around vaccines and to promote the benefits of immunisation for both children and adults.