What you need to know about Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute inflammation of the brain in humans and other warm-blooded animals. Rabies is caused by lyssaviruses including: rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus. Rabies is spread when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human. Saliva from an infected animal can also transmit rabies if the saliva comes into contact with the mouth, nose, or eyes. Overall, dogs are the most common animal involved. More than 99% of rabies cases in countries where dogs commonly have the disease are caused by dog bites. The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is usually one to three months; however, this time period can vary from less than one week to more than one year. The time is dependent on the distance the virus must travel to reach the central nervous system.
All warm-blooded species, including humans, may become infected with the rabies virus and develop symptoms. The virus is usually present in the nerves and saliva of a symptomatic rabid animal. The route of infection is usually, but not always, by a bite. In many cases, the infected animal is exceptionally aggressive, may attack without provocation, and exhibits otherwise uncharacteristic behaviour. Transmission between
humans is extremely rare. Once the patient becomes symptomatic, treatment is almost never effective and mortality is over 99%.
Signs and Symptoms
The period between infection and the first flu-like symptoms is typically 2 to 12 weeks in humans. Signs and symptoms may soon expand to slight or partial paralysis, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behaviour, paranoia, terror, and
hallucinations, progressing to delirium. The person may have hydrophobia (fear of water). Death mostly occurs 2 to 10 days after first symptoms.
How can you prevent rabies in animals?
There are several things you can do to protect your pet from rabies.
First, visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
Second, maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
Third, spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
Finally, call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighbourhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
How can you prevent rabies in people?
Rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. The most important global source of rabies in humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs. Children are often at greatest risk from rabies. They are more likely to be bitten by dogs, and are also more likely to be severely exposed through multiple bites in high-risk sites on the body. Severe exposures make it more difficult to prevent rabies unless access to good medical care is immediately available. This major source of rabies in humans can be eliminated through ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, educating those at risk, and enhancing access of those bitten to appropriate medical care.
Treatment after exposure can prevent the disease if administered promptly, generally within 10 days of infection. Thoroughly washing the wound as soon as possible with soap and water for approximately five minutes is effective in reducing the number of
viral particles. Povidone-iodine or alcohol is then recommended to reduce the virus further.
In the US, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people receive one dose of human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) and four doses of rabies vaccine
over a 14-day period. As much as possible of this dose should be injected around the bites, with the remainder being given by deep intramuscular injection at a site distant from the vaccination site.
The first dose of rabies vaccine is given as soon as possible after exposure, with additional doses on days three, seven and 14 after the first. Patients who have previously received pre-exposure vaccination do not receive the immunoglobulin,
only the post-exposure vaccinations on days 0 and 3.
The importance of vaccinating your pet
Pets are vaccinated by your veterinarian to prevent them from acquiring the disease from wildlife, and thereby transmitting it to humans.
Take Pets to a Veterinarian for Their Rabies Shot
Make sure to take your pets, such as dogs and cats, to the veterinarian each year. A veterinarian can make sure your pets are up to date on their rabies shot, which can protect them from getting rabies. This is important, since animals that have not received a rabies shot and are exposed to rabies must be quarantined for six months, or put down.