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Rabies is a well-known viral infection that can turn deadly if not treated immediately.

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This is a zoonotic disease, that is, transmitted to humans from infected animals. Learn more about this serious and fatal disease, from the following paragraphs.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a horrible disease that is found in every corner of the earth, except Antartica. It affects animals as well as humans. It is said to be one of the oldest diseases of the world. Rabies is caused by the rabies virus. It causes acute encephalitis that affects the central nervous system and spinal cord.

The term ‘rabies’ is from the Latin word meaning ‘madness’.  Once a human or animal is bitten by an infected animal, the virus travels from the site of inoculation towards the brain. It takes the peripheral nerve route to reach the brain. The incubation period is about a few months and the distance of the bite from the brain. When the rabies virus reaches the central nervous system, symptoms of rabies begin to appear. Once the symptoms appear, the disease becomes untreatable and progresses to an inevitable death.

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Thus, it is very important to get treated immediately with rabies vaccine, the minute one is bitten by an animal. If one does not get administered with the postexposure prohylaxis, it will lead to appearance of severe symptoms and death. Rabies is also known as ‘hydrophobia’ as the patient develops a fear of water, due to paralysis of the throat muscles.

Symptoms of Rabies

When the rabies virus enters the body, it starts moving towards the brain. Within 10 to 15 days, the infected person starts showing symptoms of rabies.

The initial symptoms include:

After reaching the spinal cord or brain, the person begins to show neurological symptoms. These include:

  • Partial paralysis
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium

The person begins to develop hydrophobia. Drinking water or any fluid, even saliva becomes the most painful and horrendous task for the person. The excruciating pain of the muscles in the throat and larynx makes it difficult to swallow. This causes the thirsty, dehydrated person to fear water, leading to the name ‘hydrophobia’. Within 2 to 10 days, death is inevitable.

What Causes Rabies?

The common cause of rabies in humans is a rabid animal bite. The rabies virus is a type species of the Lyssavirus genus. It has a single-strand, negative sense RNA and is enveloped.

The rabies virus is present in the saliva of the infected animal. When the animal bites a human, the virus enters the body through the opening of the skin at the bite wound. In very rare instances, rabid animal licking the eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin can transfer the virus into the human body. In very rare cases, aerosol particles containing the virus can be inhaled, leading to an infection.

Wild or domestic, animals can be rabid, if exposed to the virus. Animals like:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Cattle
  • Raccoon
  • Bats
  • Monkeys
  • Foxes
  • Skunks
  • Rabbits, etc. can get infected with the rabies virus. Thus, it is very important to vaccinate domestic animals with a rabies vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease.

Diagnosis of Rabies

Diagnosis is quite difficult as initially the disease is similar to other aggressive conditions. Many blood and tissue tests will be conducted to diagnose rabies. WHO recommends FAT test (Fluorescent Antibody Test) to diagnose rabies in affected humans.

Treatment for Rabies

Rabies does not have any specific line of treatment. Those bitten by an animal will be given a series of injections to prevent the virus from affecting the brain and central nervous system. The vaccine given is made from killed rabies vaccine and will not lead to rabies.

The bitten persons wound should be immediately washed with water or any antiviral solution like iodine tincture, alcohol, aqueous iodine solution, etc. If the doctor determines, the patient will be vaccinated. The first dose is given right away. The next 3 doses are given on the 3rd, 7th and the 14th day. Along with the first dose the Rabies Immune Globulin shot is also given.

If any person was previously vaccinated, they will be given 2 doses of rabies vaccine. The first immediately, the second one on the 3rd day. These people do not require Rabies Immune Globulin injection.

Those who do not receive this initial treatment, develop the neurological symptoms. Once the symptoms set in, the person may get into coma. Respiratory insufficiency is usually the cause of death.

Prevention of Rabies

Vaccinating of dogs, cats, rabbits and other pet animals helps reduce the risk of getting infected. One should avoid handling wild or stray animals. If anyone observes a stray, wild or pet animal behaving in a strange manner, they should immediately contact the animal control officer. If one is bitten by an animal, the wound should be immediately washed with water and soap for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Rabies is a dangerous disease in both humans and animals. The mania, the aggression and the fear of water makes this disease dreadful. The sufferer meets a horrible end and causes a lot of distress to the loved ones. Avoid handling strays or unvaccinated animals. If one is bitten immediately visit a doctor for postexposure prophylaxis.

Written by: healthplus24.com

Date last updated: February 16, 2015