With the ‘World Rabies Awareness Day’ approaching on September 28, I find it appropriate to cover this subject and analyze why Rabies is such a dangerous disease. To raise your awareness from the get go I will highlight that if a human is infested with rabies and he isn’t aware of it, by the time the first symptoms appear it will be too late for any medical treatment to heal him. Fortunately, there are enough prevention methods and early treatments available, that prevent this infection from becoming fatal. Read on and inform yourself!
What Is Rabies?
Hydrophobia, also known as rabies generates an infection in the infested host. So, this makes it a viral disease. Its preferred location is the brain, where it spreads and attacks the Central Nervous System (CNS), causing an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).
This disease was first common in dogs, as it best spreads from animal to animal via saliva and bites. A dog with rabies is considered a mad one, out of control, that bites any other animal or human. Massive dog vaccinations in the developed countries helped these animals to stop being the main rabies carriers.
Nowadays, in the United States and Europe foxes and bats are the most common animals infected with rabies. However, coyotes, skunks and raccoons are also important sources of the lyssa virus.
How Does Rabies Infection Occur
Hydrophobia is transmitted directly from animal to animal. It’s also easy passed on from animal to human via bites and scratches. If you are bitten by an infected animal you have a 20% change of developing Rabies, if you do not seek immediate treatment. Bat scratches can also lead to this disease as well as getting an open wound in contact with infected saliva. Bats are the 3rd most popular infection source of humans with rabies in countries where dogs are vaccinated and wild foxes are kept under control.
The first symptoms of rabies onset take between 20 and 80 days from infection point, to appear. In rare cases it can take also up to 1 year for the disease to attack ones brain. If preventive treatment is not applied and rabies starts to develop, one can recognize two stages:
– Initial Stage: the sufferer has fever, vomits, experiences loss of appetite and produces excess saliva.
– Developed Stage: in this later stage the patient becomes severely afraid of water (thus the hydrophobia term), experiences delirium, is out of control, anxious and has throat spasms. This is also the stage when animals like dogs, bite and act violently.
Rabies First Aid and Treatment
If you are attacked by one of the wild animals known to carry rabies, and aren’t vaccinated against it, don’t despair. Clean your wound thoroughly and disinfect it with Betadine or rubbing alcohol. Bandage yourself, go to the hospital and mention that you could have been exposed to the rabies virus.
Note, that the location of the wound on your body is important. The further away it’s from your brain, the more time you have until the point of no-return. That’s the point when the virus reaches the brain and early rabies symptoms are developed. Any treatment would be inefficient at that stage.
Preventive treatment is offered to counteract a potential rabies infection. The hydrophobia virus has an efficient stealth mode for the human immune system, thus it efficiently hides and the body won’t react to it, until it’s to late and the infection reaches the brain. The preventive system consists in administration of antibodies which help the body to detect a potential infection. The immunoglobulins work as an antidote similar to snake bites and bind themselves on the target giving time to the immune system to fight the virus.
Rabies Infection Prevention
People that live in areas where rabies infection risk is high should opt for active immunization under the form of vaccination. Three injections with killed rabies virus are required. First two within one week, with the third one coming 3 weeks later. However, do note that you still need the rabies antidote vaccine if you are bitten, no matter if you already benefited from pre-immunization.
Other tips for preventing infection is to avoid contact with ill animals and to vaccinate your own dogs and other vulnerable household animals.