KnowYourDisease.Com Rabies, Rabies Definition, Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment, Rabies Side Effects, Signs Of Rabies, Canine Rabies, Cure For Rabies, Information On Rabies, Prevention Of Rabies, Rabies Infection, Rabies Disease, Rabies Testing
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Definition :
Rabies is a serious viral disease that affects your central nervous system. Typically rabies spreads by way of the saliva of infected animals — often, but not always, through a bite.

Once you're infected, the virus spreads from your muscle to your peripheral nerves to your spinal cord and brain. From initial flu-like signs and symptoms, the illness progresses to convulsions, hallucinations, paralysis or breathing failure and almost always death once the infection is established. It's important to seek treatment immediately after exposure.

Your risk of exposure to rabies in the United States is greater when you come into contact with a wild animal. Wild animals are more likely to carry rabies than are domesticated animals.

Each year a few people die of rabies in the United States. Most deaths occur because the person didn't seek medical assistance. Treatment consists of treatment to the wound plus a series of rabies shots, which prevent symptoms and death resulting from rabies infection. If you think you've been exposed to an animal with rabies, call your doctor as soon as possible.

Most often rabies transmission occurs through the bite of a rabid animal. Rarely, people contract rabies when saliva from an infected animal comes in contact with their eyes, nose, mouth or a wound. This may occur if you're licked by an infected animal.

Inhaling the rabies virus is another potential route of exposure, but one likely to affect only laboratory workers.

Risk Factors:
Your risk of exposure to rabies in the United States is greater when you come into contact with a wild animal. Most rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks and foxes. Though less than 10 percent of bats carry rabies, infected bats have transmitted most of the recent rabies cases in people in the United States.

Domesticated animals such as cats, dogs and cattle account for only a small percentage of reported rabies cases. By law, most pets and domesticated animals receive vaccinations against rabies.

You're at greatest risk of contracting rabies if your activities bring you into contact with the rabies virus or a potentially rabid mammal. People at risk can include veterinarians, animal caretakers or handlers, laboratory workers, cave explorers, hunters, forest rangers and people visiting bat-inhabited caves.

You're also at risk if you plan to travel to areas where rabies isn't controlled, such as parts of Africa, Asia, Central America and South America.

When to seek medical advice :
If you think you may have been exposed to an animal with rabies, thoroughly wash the wound or area of exposure with soap and water. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

Quick action is important. Once the earliest signs and symptoms appear, death almost always follows. Promptly contacting your doctor after a potential rabies exposure greatly increases your chance of surviving. No one in the United States has contracted rabies after receiving prompt and appropriate treatment after an exposure.

If you awaken and find a bat in your room, it's possible you had contact with the bat without knowing it. Bats have small teeth that don't always leave noticeable marks. In the case of small rodents, including squirrels, a bite isn't likely to transmit rabies, but it's still best to consult your doctor to make a treatment decision.

Your local or state health department will have up-to-date information on the types of animals in your local community that are potential carriers of rabies, and those in which rabies is unlikely. It's of great help if the animal can be caught and tested for rabies.

Symptoms :
Signs and symptoms of rabies usually appear within one to three months after exposure, though there have been rare cases in which rabies didn't appear for more than six months after exposure. Rabies is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear. Death from breathing failure often happens within a week after the appearance of signs and symptoms.

Early signs and symptoms of rabies in humans are general and not unique to the disease. They may include :

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Malaise

As the disease progresses, rabies symptoms may include :

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Malaise

As the disease progresses, rabies symptoms may include :

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Slight or partial paralysis
  • Excitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Salivation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Convulsions
  • Fear of water (hydrophobia) because of the difficulty in swallowing

A bite's severity and its location on your body can determine how quickly signs and symptoms appear. A severe bite to your head might cause problems to appear in a much shorter time than might those of a bite to your leg.

If you've been bitten or have had contact with an animal that may have rabies, certain information may help your doctor determine your risk of contracting rabies and how to treat you. Take note of the following :

  • Where the incident occurred
  • A description of the animal
  • If you were bitten, whether the animal was provoked or confronted
  • The vaccination status of a domesticated animal
  • Whether the animal can be safely captured to be tested for rabies

Once a potentially rabid animal is captured, it may be confined for observation. Another option is for health professionals to conduct tests on the animal's brain tissue to determine whether it has rabies. Testing can be done quickly, but only after the animal is dead.

If you have the signs and symptoms of rabies, a number of tests using blood, saliva, spinal fluid, brain tissue or skin tissue taken from the nape of your neck may be required to identify or rule out rabies infection.

If your doctor determines that you likely were exposed to rabies, treatment begins at once. The sooner you begin rabies treatment, the greater your chance of recovery.

If you live in the United States and receive treatment for rabies after an animal bite, treatment — called post-exposure prophylaxis — consists of one dose of rabies immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a 28-day period. Rabies immune globulin and the first dose of rabies vaccine are administered as soon as possible after you've been exposed and have reported the exposure to your doctor. You're given the immune globulin by injection around the site of the bite, and you receive injections of the vaccine into your upper arm muscle.

Immune globulins are disease-fighting proteins that provide you with temporary antibodies. The rabies vaccine helps your body start producing its own antibodies. Antibody production takes time, but the antibodies produced by your body provide longer lasting protection than do the ones contained in rabies immune globulin.

Although the vaccine isn't painful, you might have a mild physical reaction. Watch for reactions such as swelling or redness where the injection occurred. Headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches and dizziness are other possible side effects. Contact your doctor if side effects cause you discomfort.

The first thing to do if you've been bitten by an animal is thoroughly wash the wound or area of exposure with soap and water. This is one of the most effective methods to decrease the chance of infection.

If soap isn't available — for example, when hiking — you can use water alone. But be sure to wash with soap and water as soon as possible. Allowing the wound to bleed also can help clean it.

Ways to help prevent exposure to rabies include :

  • Keep your pets and other domesticated animals up-to-date with regular animal rabies shots.
  • Avoid contact with wild or unfamiliar animals, whether they're alive or dead.
  • Seal or close any openings where animals might find entry into your home.
  • Report stray animals or any that act strangely or sick to your local animal control authorities. Keep the phone number for animal control near your phone. If you don't have animal control personnel in your community, call the police or sheriff's office.
  • Teach your children to never handle unfamiliar animals.

If your work or activities might bring you into contact with the rabies virus or a potentially rabid mammal, consider getting a preventive vaccination. This vaccination — called pre-exposure prophylaxis — involves three injections over three or four weeks. A booster shot can maintain the vaccination's effectiveness.

Determine your risk before traveling
Talk to your doctor or a travel medicine specialist before visiting developing countries in Asia, Africa or Latin America. In many of these countries, dogs are the major carriers of rabies. Children may be at particular risk since they might be more likely than adults to be approached by stray or rabid animals. Your doctor can help you gauge your risk of exposure to rabies and whether to have pre-exposure prophylaxis. You can also discuss how you would handle an exposure. Some areas of the world don't have complete post-exposure treatment readily available.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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