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The Facts About Rabies
Rabies used to be one of the most dreaded diseases. Left untreated, it causes inflammation of the brain. That can lead to uncontrolled behavior, frothing at the mouth, and a manic fear of water. Up until the development of a vaccine in 1885, almost all cases of human rabies were fatal.
Today, cases of human rabies in the United States are rare. That’s thanks to animal control and vaccination programs.
There are usually only 1-3 cases of human rabies reported every year. Even so, there are still plenty of wild animals out there that carry the virus. So, as it’s a good idea to be well-informed about the dangers that face us, here’s everything you need to know about rabies.
What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a disease that affects mammals. It’s a virus that attacks the central nervous system.
There are approximately 55,000 human deaths caused by rabies worldwide every year. Human cases of the disease in the US, though, are very rare. Even so, if not treated in time, in 99.9% cases, rabies will be fatal. So, if you think you have had exposure to a rabid animal, it is vital that seek treatment straight away.
How is Rabies Spread?
Rabies is usually spread through a bite or a scratch from an infected mammal. In some cases, it can also be transmitted through infected saliva getting into existing wounds. Wild animals that carry the disease include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Most humans that contract rabies in the United States do so as a result of a bite from a rabid domestic dog. Domestic cats can also contract the virus.
What Are the Symptoms of Rabies?
Rabies can lay dormant for up to three months. There may be no symptoms at all during this dormant period. Doctors call this period the incubation period.
The first sign that you have contracted the virus will be the onset of a fever. There may also be tingling, pain, or a burning sensation in the wound. As the virus spreads through the body, more serious symptoms will develop. The symptoms of rabies include:
- Feeling anxious
- Partial paralysis
- Feeling confused
- Periods of hyperactivity
- Excessive salivating
- Swallowing difficulties
Untreated, the virus will cause heart failure, lung failure, coma, and it will lead to death.
What Should You Do If You Are Bitten by a Rabid Animal?
If you get bitten by an unfamiliar animal, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Healthcare professionals will then decide if you will need vaccinations.
If you get bitten by an animal, you should wash the wound as soon as possible with soap and water. That will reduce the risk of infection. An animal bite should be treated as a medical urgency. You should seek medical advice as soon as possible. It is not, though, an immediate medical emergency, unless the wound is severe. Even so, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will treat the wound and tell you if you need a rabies vaccination.
The vaccination used for rabies is the postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccination. It is 100% effective if administered immediately after exposure to the virus. Rabies treatment begins with one immediate, fast-acting vaccination. That is then followed by four further vaccinations over the following fourteen days.
How Can You Tell If an Animal Is Rabid?
The simple answer to that question is that you can’t! Not all animals that have rabies foam at the mouth and attack you like Cujo in the Stephen King movie. In fact, many rabid animals appear to be shy and timid. The best approach to take with any animal bite or scratch is to seek medical advice. Don’t assume that you can tell if an animal is rabid, because you can’t.
How Can You Avoid Contracting Rabies?
The best way to avoid contracting rabies is to use your common sense. Never approach wild or stray animals and never try to pet them. If you see an animal acting odd or being aggressive, contact the local animal control. And, remember, any mammal can contract rabies.
As already mentioned, the best way to avoid getting bitten by a rabid animal is to use your common sense. Stay well clear of wild animals and strays. If you do get injured by an animal, seek medical advice as soon as possible. Rabies isn’t the only thing that you can catch through an animal bite or scratch.
We hope that you have found this article interesting. If you did, please share it with your friends on social media. And, make sure that your kids know not to go near any animals they don’t know. If you love the outdoors, you may also like our hiking safety tips.
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