Rabies Testing Procedures

Public Health staff will collect information about the incident, animal, and affected person. They will contact the State Lab before the specimen is collected and sent. The lab will either accept or deny the specimen based on the information provided.

  • Keep the animal cold, as soon after death as possible, and in transit to the lab.
  • Do not freeze or allow the specimen to become frozen.
  • Do not use dry ice.
  • Do not allow direct contact with wet ice.
  • If the animal is a dog, cat or similar-sized animal, have a veterinarian remove the head. Decapitate at a point that is several vertebrae below the head. This will ensure that brain stem will be present in the submitted head. The Lab also needs the cerebellum and at least one side of the hippocampus for a valid test.
  • If the animal is a bat, send the whole body. Veterinarians can euthanize live bats. It is against the law to ship live bats or any other live animal.

Environmental Health Services has containers available for shipping specimens to the lab: a shipping box, and either a Biojar or metal drum, depending on the size of the animal. Packaging of biological specimens for shipment to the State Public Health Lab should occur at the Veterinarian's office. Dead bats may be brought to Environmental Health for packaging and shipping. Environmental Health will complete the required forms and arrange for transport to the laboratory.

Notification of Results

Public health officials will notify the exposed individual of the results of rabies testing as soon as it becomes available. Results are generally available within 24 hours following receipt of the specimen by the State Health Lab.