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Rabies is a viral disease which a human may get from being bitten by an animal infected with the rabies virus. Rabies is an illness that is passed directly from animal to animal and from animal to human. Rabies can causes acute encephalitis or inflammation of the brain in mammals. Rabies infections in United States are rare. Rabies has been recognized for over 4,000 years.

Despite advancements in diagnosing and preventing this disease, it is still almost deadly in humans who get infected by it and do not receive proper treatment. The average incubation period in humans is 30-60 days, but it may range from less than 10 days to several years.

However, worldwide thousands of people die from rabies each year, mostly in developing countries where programs for vaccinating dogs against rabies don't exist.

Rabies is also called as "Hydrophobia", "Madness", "Rage", and "Fury"

Animals that carry rabies
Almost any wild or domestic animal can potentially get rabies, the most common wild reservoirs of rabies are:

  • Bats are the most common animals responsible for the transmission of human rabies
  • Cats are the most common domestic animals with rabies
  • Dogs are the most common domestic rabid animals worldwide.
  • Fish, reptiles, and birds are not known to carry the rabies virus.
  • Large rodents like beavers, woodchucks/groundhogs have been found to have rabies in some areas of the United States.
  • Rabies is very rare in small rodents like rats, squirrels, rabbits and hares.
  • Raccoons are the most common wild animals infected with rabies
  • Skunks, foxes, bats, and coyotes are the most frequently affected of rabies

Causes of rabies

  • Virus: The virus that causes rabies is the lyssa virus, and it is one of the few in that particular group which can cause illness in man.
  • Bitten by Animal: People usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal
  • Others: It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

Signs & Symptoms of rabies
One of the most distinctive signs of a rabies infection is a tingling or twitching sensation around the area of the animal bite. In people, symptoms of rabies include

  • Abnormal Postures & Thoughts
  • Aggressiveness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in Speaking
  • Excessive Movements
  • Extreme Sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, touch
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Increased Production of Saliva
  • Irritability
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle Aches and Spasms
  • Nausea
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Weakness

In the advanced stage of the infection, these symptoms may develop:

  • Extreme breathing problem
  • Increased production of saliva causing the "foaming at the mouth"
  • Double vision
  • Problems moving facial muscles

Diagnosis of rabies

  • Testing: There is no way to detect rabies if the rabies virus has been passed to you. So the testing is not required at all.
  • Examination: Patient will be taken vital signs like temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure etc. He/she will be asked a lot of questions about the animal and the exposure.
  • Other illnesses: The diagnosis of rabies is complex and cannot be determined in the emergency department. If the doctor is concerned about rabies or another form of central nervous system infection, you may be admitted to the hospital.

Patient would be given a number of other tests like:

  • Blood Test to examine virus in blood
  • Spinal tap to examine spinal fluid for evidence of infection.
  • X-ray and CT scan tests etc.

Preventions of rabies
To help prevent rabies

  • Animals with rabies might be aggressive and vicious, or tired and weak so don't approach stray animals.
  • Don't let pets roam
  • Remind kids that they should never touch or feed stray cats or dogs wandering in the neighborhood or elsewhere.
  • Report any stray animals to your local health authorities or animal-control officer.
  • Vaccinate your pet. Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats and farm animals

As a precaution against rabies or any other infections, call your doctor:

  • If you are planning to move abroad and have a fear that you may come into contact with rabid animals
  • If your child is too young to describe the contact with the animal that might have rabies
  • If your child has been exposed to bats, even if there is no bite

Treatments of rabies
Some of the following treatment of rabies:

  • Tetanus Injection: At the hospital the doctor will first clean the wound thoroughly and make sure that your child's tetanus immunizations are current.
  • Wound care: The wounds should be cleaned with mild soap and a virus-killing cleanser
  • Human Rabies Immune Globulin: A one-time injection of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), which is a substance that provides rapid, short-term protection against rabies may decided by the doctor to start treating your child

In the following conditions the rabies vaccine should be avoided:

  • Avoid further immunization of once a complication has occurred with the vaccine.
  • Avoid pre exposure vaccine if person is known to be allergic to any constituents of the vaccine.
  • Avoid prophylactic use in children, adolescents, pregnant women & adults on treatment for any acute illness.

If your child is bitten by an animal
If your child has been bitten by an animal, take the following steps right away:

  • Wash the bite area with mild soap/cleanser and clean water
  • Call the doctor or go to a nearby emergency department
  • Call local animal-control authorities to help find the animal that caused the bite.
  • The animal may need to be detained and observed for signs of rabies.
  • Try to get all the information about the animal, including vaccination status and the owner's name and address. Notify your local health department, particularly if the animal hasn't been vaccinated.

When to Seek Medical Care
If you think an exposure to a rabid animal has occurred, call your doctor immediately.

  • If you suspect that your child has been bitten by an unknown dog, bat, rat, cat or other animal, contact your doctor immediately or take your child to the emergency department.
  • The doctor should discuss both the animal's risk for having rabies and the risk of the exposure for transmission of the virus.
  • The doctor also should know if you have previously received vaccination against rabies, either because you're in a high-risk profession

Myths about Rabies
Myth: Human-to-Human Transmission not possible
Humans are mammals. Therefore, theoretically, human-to-human rabies transmission is possible. However, there are no laboratory-tested cases to confirm that this has actually happened. But there have been 8 confirmed cases of death due to human-to-human rabies transmissions resulting from cornea transplants.

Myth: The Old Cure vs. the New
Years ago the idea of getting vaccinated against rabies was nearly as frightening as rabies' deadly symptoms, because it required a series of very painful injections in the stomach. Modern science has improved the vaccine, so it is not as uncomfortable to receive and no one gets an injection in the stomach.

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