Rabies Summary
Rabies is a potentially fatal viral infection. Rabies symptoms include fever, headache, myalgia, and can progress to more serious symptoms such as seizures, coma and death. The rabies vaccine (rabies treatment) should be administered immediately after the person or pet has been bitten.
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Rabies facts

  • Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and, unless treated quickly and appropriately, usually results in death.
  • Rabies symptoms and signs occur after exposure and may consist of some or many of the following: odd behaviors, delirium, combativeness, loss of muscle function, muscle spasms, drooling, convulsions, pain, and other problems.
  • Rabies is caused when the virus, Lyssavirus rabies, enters the human body by the bite from an infected animal, in most cases. The virus progresses through the nerves to the brain and other organs.
  • Although the majority of rabies infections worldwide originate from bites from infected dogs, other animals (for example, bats, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, wolves) may transmit the disease. Saliva from infected animals and bat guano may also transmit the rabies virus to humans under certain conditions.
  • A person exposed to rabies should ideally be treated within 12 hours of the exposure and definitely within 48 hours for the best outcome.
  • People exposed to rabies are usually treated with rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine initially and then get an additional vaccine injection on days three, seven, 14, and occasionally 28 after the first treatment.
  • Diagnostic tests for rabies exposure usually involve taking tissue samples (often brain tissue) from the potentially rabies-infected animal exposed to the patient and using immunofluorescence or other immunological techniques to detect the virus in the animal tissue.
  • Patients who develop the symptoms of rabies, due to no treatment or incomplete treatment, in almost every instance, will die from the disease.
  • Rabies can be prevented or greatly reduced in incidence by government-mandated animal vaccinations, by oral vaccines fed to wild animals, and by avoiding any contact with an animal suspected of having rabies.

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