Rabies is a viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort.  For more information on Rabies and the illness it causes, please visit the CDC website.

The Rabies Unit at OLS is responsible for screening animal brain tissue for the presence of the rabies virus and to further prevent the spread of the disease.  This is the only facility in the state of West Virginia that can screen animal brain tissue for the presence of the rabies virus in cases of human exposure.  A direct fluorescent antibody (FA) staining technique is used.  Samples are accepted and tested from 8:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.  Samples requiring after-hours testing MUST be approved by Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology staff in consultation with OLS laboratorians.  OLS cannot accept UPS, FedEx, or USPS deliveries on weekends or holidays.

The standard protocol for accepting a suspect animal includes:
  • animals involved with biting or scratching humans
  • animals involved with biting or scratching domestic animals or livestock
  • occasional environmental "spot check" of areas (surveillance)
  • unusual situations involving the suspect animal such as a typical behavior


The Rabies Laboratory cooperates with many different public and private providers.  The primary providers are county health departments (sanitarians) and veterinarians.  Some secondary providers include medical facilities, local animal shelters, law enforcement agencies, USDA and the WV Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Rabies testing program serves two purposes:
  1. Screening provides a guideline for the treatment of persons exposed to a suspect animal.
  2. It also provides a valuable epidemiological tool for the tracking and progression of the spread of Rabies in a particular geographical area or in a particular animal species.

For the latest epidemiological information regarding Rabies, visit DHHR's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

World Rabies Day
September 28th

Forms and Instructions

Contact Information

Phone: 304-558-3530 extension 20135
Fax: 304-558-2006

After Hours Cell Phone: 304-550-9882 (NOTE: This number is only valid during weekends and holidays.)