The victim of a dog bite in Florida does not always need to receive the rabies vaccine. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains that it is possible to observe a dog in confinement for symptoms, and if none show up after 10 days, no further treatment is necessary. A human dog bite victim also does not need any shots if the animal has a verifiable vaccination history.
However, sometimes it is not possible to either observe the dog or verify its vaccination history. If this is the case, then according to the Centers for Disease Control, the victim should receive a course of injections containing the rabies vaccine. If the patient has never had a previous rabies vaccination, the first dose should also include human rabies immune globulin. Unusually, most people who receive the rabies vaccine only do so after an event, such as a dog bite, in which transmission of the virus could take place. For this reason, doctors refer to it as postexposure prophylaxis.
Part of the reason why a patient may receive a vaccination only after a dog bite is that the rabies virus takes a long time to incubate, i.e., start producing symptoms. Another reason for postexposure prophylaxis is that one shot alone is not effective against the disease. The patient must have multiple injections according to a set schedule. The first injection takes place on the day of exposure, or as soon thereafter as possible. The patient receives the next dose on the third day and subsequent doses on days seven and 14.
In the past, it was more common for patients to experience adverse reactions from the rabies vaccine. However, because of the development of new vaccines, adverse reactions are much rarer. Local reactions at the injection site may include itching, pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. These are typically mild.