Division of Clinical Microbiology




Annette Regec, Ph.D.

Virology & Immunology Supervisor


Pennsylvania Department of Health

Bureau of Laboratories

110 Pickering Way

Exton, PA 19341-1310


Phone: 484-870-6289 Fax: 610-450-1932

E-mail: aregec@pa.gov







Rabies Testing

Human Contact Specimens


All human exposure specimens should be submitted to the Bureau of Laboratories for testing.


Nature of the Specimen


Suspect animals with valid human exposure (bite, exposure of open wounds to saliva, scratch, contact of saliva with eye or mucous membranes) should be tested for rabies. Handling of animals with no exposure to saliva does not constitute human exposure.

Live Specimens


Never submit live animals. They cannot be accepted. The laboratory is not equipped to handle live animals. Care must be taken when sacrificing the animal not to damage the brain.



Dead Specimens


Only the head of a suspect dog, cat, raccoon, skunk, groundhog, or fox is to be submitted for rabies examination. The laboratory does not have adequate means for disposal of whole animals. It is preferable to have a veterinarian remove the head.


The entire animal should be submitted when submitting a bat, chipmunk or squirrel.


Large animal heads, such as cattle, oxen, horses, must be submitted to the Department of Agriculture laboratory in Harrisburg even if there is human exposure. The Harrisburg laboratory has the facilities to remove brain tissue from such large animals. They will then ship the brain to the proper laboratory for testing. An alternative is for the local veterinarian to remove the brain and ship it directly to the Bureau of Laboratories.


Pet hamsters, gerbils and mice are not routinely accepted for rabies testing.


Preparation of the Specimen for Delivery to the Laboratory


Packing the Specimen


The severed head or whole animal should be placed in a watertight container such as a heavy plastic bag tied with a string or twist tie or in a jar with a tight fitting lid. This container should be placed into a larger watertight container and packed with cold packs. In either case, the HEAD SHOULD NOT BE FROZEN because this will cause a delay in testing.


Pertinent Information Required


Human Exposure Rabies Form


(This form can be completed, printed and saved using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. A completed form must be submitted with each specimen.)

Regarding the Specimen

Please include the following information:


• kind of animal;
• whether the animal died or was euthanized;
• if the animal was confined and observed before death and by whom;
• health condition of the animal before death;
• name, address, and telephone number of the owner of the animal, if known;
• rabies immunization status of the animal;
• circumstances regarding the bite;
• time and date of bite;
• provoked or unprovoked; and
• name, address, and telephone number of person or agency submitting the specimen.

Regarding the Patient

Please include the following information:

• name, address and telephone number;
• if the victim consulted a PHYSICIAN or HEALTH CARE FACILITY, please provide name, address and telephone number; and

• address where human contact occurred

Delivery of the Specimen

The specimen should be hand-delivered or shipped by an overnight delivery service. Specify Saturday delivery when specimen is shipped on Friday. If using the U.S. Postal Service, Express Mail should be used so that the specimen is received in a timely manner for testing and notification of results. Check with the local postmaster as the Postal Service may not accept the specimen if improperly packaged.

Specimens can be taken to the following regional Department of Agriculture offices for the shipment to our laboratory: Meadville, Altoona, Montoursville, Tunkhannock, Harrisburg and Gibsonia.

PA Department of Agriculture Regional Offices

Laboratory Tests Performed and Reporting Procedures


This laboratory routinely performs the fluorescent antibody test on all specimens.

Laboratory test results are reported promptly by telephone and subsequently confirmed by a written report mailed to the physician and/or veterinarian and to authorized public health officials. Results are routinely reported within 24 hours after the laboratory receives the specimen.


Laboratories in the Commonwealth performing rabies diagnostic work are:


Pennsylvania Department of Health
Bureau of Laboratories
110 Pickering Way
Exton, Pennsylvania 19341


Specimens are accepted 7 days a week 24 hours a day.

(Except Philadelphia & Allegheny County - see below)

Philadelphia Department of Health Laboratory
500 South Broad Street
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania 19170

215-685-6740 or 215-685-6748

Specimens originating within the city limits of Philadelphia should be dispatched to this laboratory.


Allegheny County Department of Laboratories
3441 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania 15213

This laboratory provides rabies diagnostics services for Allegheny County only.



Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
State Veterinary Laboratory
2305 North Cameron Street
Harrisburg , Pennsylvania 17110




Management of Bite Victims


Consultative services are available for evaluation, treatment, and other problems to attending physicians, nurses, and veterinarians from the Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 717-787-3350.

Answers to non-technical questions from the public should be addressed to the local health department or district via 1-877-724-3258 or direct dialing the local number.

Contact information for Health Department or District Office.


These numbers are also available in the blue government pages of the local phone book.