At the time of a bite, there is generally no way to analyze whether an animal is rabid, or it has transferred an infection. Lab tests may represent antibodies, but these may not occur until later in the development of the disease. The virus may be isolated through a skin biopsy or saliva. However, further diagnosis is confirmed, it may be too late to take some action.
For such reason, the patient will usually start a course of prophylactic treatment at once, without a confirmed diagnosis. If a person shows symptoms of viral encephalitis following an animal bite, they should be cured as If they have rabies.
If a person is scratched or bitten by an animal that may have rabies, or if animal bites or licks an open wound, the person should directly wash any scratches and bites for 15 minutes with soapy water, detergent, or povidone-iodine. This might decrease the number of viral particles. Then they must search for medical help at once.
After exposure and before symptoms start showing, a series of shots can prevent the virus from spreading. This is generally effective. It is not generally possible to analyze whether the animal has rabies or not. It is one of the safest things to assume the worst and begin the course of shots. A number of people have survived rabies, but the majority of cases are fatal once the symptoms appear. There is no perfect treatment at this stage.