What is rabies?

Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that can infect all mammals, including humans. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and ultimately, death.

What animals get rabies?

All mammals can get rabies. Animals in Iowa are infected with rabies every year; some animals are more likely to be infected than others. For example, wild animals (especially skunks and bats) most often get rabies. All domestic animals (such as dogs, cats, horses, and cattle) can be infected. Rodents (such as squirrels, hamsters, and mice) and rabbits very rarely get rabies.

How do you get rabies?

Anyone can get rabies after exposure to a rabid animal. Rabies is spread when the virus from the animal’s saliva gets through a person’s skin via bites or contact to wounds or contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. Anyone who sleeps in a room where a bat is found may have been exposed to rabies. Because a bat’s bite is very small, it may not be noticeable. Also, if the bat scratched the skin without biting, rabies could be transmitted.

What should you do if you find a bat in your room?

If you live on campus, immediately call Campus Safety at 319-895-4299 to come and capture the bat. If you slept with a bat in your room, even if you have no visible bite marks, the bat should be sent for testing. Be sure to communicate to Campus Safety that you believe the bat was present in your room while you were sleeping. If you live off-campus, every attempt should be made to capture the bat, and your landlord should be notified. 

Schedule an appointment with the Student Health Center to be seen same day as the exposure. If it is a weekend and the Health Center is closed, call St. Luke’s Emergency Room at 319-369-7105 for recommendations about seeking treatment.

What should you do if you are exposed to a rabid animal?

Immediately wash the site of exposure (such as the bite or wound) thoroughly with soap and water. Go to the Student Health Center to discuss whether you need rabies shots and where you should go to get them. If it is after hours and the Health Center is closed, please call St. Luke’s Hospital emergency room at 319-369-7105. If possible, the animal should be captured and sent to the State Hygienic Lab for testing.

For more information:



For further questions call the Iowa Department of Public Health, Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology (CADE):

During business hours: 800-362-2736

After hours: 515-323-4360