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Key Information About Rabies

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Overview

Rabies is a rare, preventable viral disease of the brain and nerves. Most often it is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal.

Across the globe, 99 percent of human rabies cases result from virus transmission by domestic dogs.

"Zoonotic diseases like Rabies claims the lives of people in their prime denying the family of their earning member” says Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, India’s Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare.

Five people died from rabies in the US in the year 2021, including three in just a 6-week span from Sept 28 to Nov 10 — a “sobering reminder,” one expert said, of the risk still posed by one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Causes

Rabies infection is caused by the rabies virus, which is spread through the saliva of infected animals.

Infected mammals can spread the virus by biting another animal or a human being. In rare cases, rabies can be spread when infected saliva gets into an open wound, or the mucous membranes, such as the mouth or eyes.

"An animal with rabies can also transmit the rabies virus through its saliva, which can come in contact with a person’s mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes) or can get in open wounds on the skin," said an official working with the Meriden Department of Health and Human Services.

The virus spreads to humans through the secretions of the affected animal — usually the saliva.

— Dr. Charles Livaudais, North Hills Animal Hospital.

Symptoms

The first symptoms of rabies can appear from a few days to more than a year after the bite happens; average is about two months.

Fever, headache, malaise, loss of appetite, vomiting, pain, itching, or numbness and tingling at the site of the wound are common symptoms during first stage of the disease.

Symptoms during the second stage include difficulty in swallowing, foaming at the mouth, agitation, disorientation and paralysis. Patient may go to coma or even die.

The first [symptom] is generally pain or tingling — like a bee sting... Soon after that, fever develops, followed by confusion [and] agitation. ... People eventually die from going into a coma.

— Emily Pieracci, veterinary epidemiologist for the CDC.

Rabies Patient

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Diagnosis

Tests are performed on samples of saliva, serum, spinal fluid, and skin biopsies of hair follicles at the nape of the neck.

Treatment

Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, but treatment before this is very effective.

Wound cleansing, debridement, and careful exploration for foreign body (eg, broken tooth) are some activities performed by the doctor as soon as the wound is presented for treatment.

CDC recommends prophylaxis (protective treatment) after a wildlife bite from an animal suspected to have rabies.

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Presence of rabies in all wildlife may be indicated by unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis, lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and/or disorientation.

— CDC

Rabid Dog

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Prevention

World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have set a target for global dog-mediated human rabies elimination by 2030.

Vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies. Do not allow them to roam unsupervised. Leave stray mammals alone.

In May 2019, Birgitte Kallestad, 24, a Norwegian woman died from rabies after she played with an infected puppy that she attempted to rescue while on vacation.

The puppy is thought to have infected her when it bit her (in February) after they took it back to their resort. Her family said she had sterilised the "small scrapes" given by the puppy as she played with it, but sought no more medical attention.

Dog bite victims should immediately wash their wounds with soap and water and consult with a doctor, who can advise whether anti-rabies shots are needed.

Avoid wild animals, even if they appear friendly. Do not feed them from your hand. Avoid keeping them as pets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices released recommendations in 2010 for a reduced (4-dose) vaccine schedule for Post Exposure Prophylaxis to prevent human rabies.

"Rabies is best prevented by vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start," says Jeremy Eschliman, Two Rivers Public Health Department.

Authorities need to deploy rabies vaccine mobile vehicles. They may also be used to spread awareness about the disease.

key-information-about-rabies

If we all take some time to tidy up around our homes, make sure our pets are current on their vaccinations, and leave wildlife alone, we can minimize the possibility of our families and pets becoming ill.

— Kaylan Stinson, Boulder County Public Health regional epidemiologist.

World Rabies Day

World Rabies Day is observed every year on September 28 to raise awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight progress in defeating this deadly disease.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

Comments

Srikanth R (author) on May 12, 2019:

Sad. She was infected by a puppy that she rescued.

Srikanth R (author) on May 12, 2019:

Very unfortunate.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 11, 2019:

In the 1950s/early 1960s my mother came across rabies when she worked as a nurse in Rwanda. Recently I heard of a young Norwegian tourist who died from rabies after being bitten by a stray dog.

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