What is Rabies
Rabies is a preventable infection that caused by a virus. It affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) of any kind of mammal, including humans. If left untreated, rabies may lead to death. Animals that are infected by rabies (rabid animals) can transmit the disease through their saliva or brain tissue. As a rule, people get rabies when a rabid animal bites them. Rabies is not common in the United States. It is more prevalent among people in developing nations.
Signs and symptoms
Early symptoms of Rabies are similar to flu symptoms, they include:
- General tiredness
- Discomfort, numbness or pain at the site of the bite
Progressive Rabies symptoms are:
- Slight or partial paralysis
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hydrophobia (fear of water)
Eventually, a person infected by the rabies virus can slip into a coma and even die. Death is usually caused by breathing failure. If you have the initial contact with the infected animal, you have to seek treatment at once. It is very important to start the treatment before the symptoms occur or it is highly unlikely to be effective in preventing death from the virus.
The most common cause of rabies is the bite of a rabid animal. The virus is carried in the saliva of the rabid animal and is able to enter the body through an opening in the skin such as a bite wound. Rarely you can get rabies from a non-bite exposure. For example, non-bite exposures include inhalation of aerosol particles of the virus or by a rabid animal licking a person's eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin.
There is a list of high-risk animals:
- non-domesticated (wild) dogs
Certain domestic animals such as cats, dogs and cattle can become rabid if bitten, so it is important to get them vaccinated against rabies.
You may protect yourself from getting rabies by taking the following steps:
- It is obligatory to vaccinate your pet. Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats and farm animals
- You should not let pets roam
- You should not approach stray animals. Animals with rabies might be aggressive and vicious or tired and weak
After a bite or contact with an infected animal, you should seek immediate treatment by a doctor. The sooner treatment is started, the more likely a person will avoid developing the disease. If the symptoms appear, the rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin will not be effective and you may die.
The most common treatment of rabies is postexposure prophylaxis. You should wash the wound with soap and water in order to reduce the risk of developing symptoms.
Then you should receive a dose of immunoglobulin against the rabies virus followed by a strict schedule of injections of the rabies vaccine. The immunoglobulin provides immediate protection against the virus to "bridge the gap" until the vaccine starts working. The vaccine is aimed to help the person's immune system make antibodies against the potentially lethal virus. The vaccine protects people for approximately 2 years.
It is very important for people such as veterinarians or cattle farmers who work with potentially infected animals or humans to be vaccinated against rabies. They will also have periodic blood tests to see whether they need booster shots of the rabies vaccine.