Rabies: The Danger of Animal Bites

Rabies is one of the most feared conditions because of the devastating effects and the absence of a true cure. Hundreds of people get infected with the virus each year due to animal bites. Some may not even know that they have the disease until the symptoms present several years later. The approach should involve awareness, prevention and early treatment to fully get rid of the problem. Individuals should be educated about the relative effects and risks to maintain good health always. Here is an overview and more information.

Introduction to Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease generally associated with animal bites. The virus can be spread by either domestic or wild animals as well as human beings. Rabies is acquired by individuals who have been in contact with infected saliva which enters their system through broken skin or a bite. The virus will move from the opening to the blood circulation and then to the brain. As a result, the brain will begin to get inflamed and swell, causing the different symptoms of the problem. The prognosis of affected individuals once the symptoms are present is generally poor.

Several cases are linked to animal bites coming from dogs, cats, raccoons, rats, bats, foxes, skunks and other infected animals. Human bites can also happen although these are quite rare. The cases involving domestic pets have decreased in the past years because of widespread animal vaccination. The condition can also be acquired through broken skin such as when an infected animal licks an open wound or scratches the person.

Development of Rabies

Once the virus enters the system, it will find a way to get close to the cells of the nervous system. The virus will get inside the nerve cells found close to the opening and then move towards the brain. Other organs and muscles will also be affected as the infected nerve cells travel towards these areas.

Rabies development can also occur in other ways such as contracting the virus by breathing infected air and by getting implants from individuals affected with the condition. Regarding inhalation of infected air, it is a very rare case that occurred in people living in caves or closed areas where rabid bats and other rodents also reside. The implants are also a rare case. Some people have acquired rabies through corneal implants. The virus is generally present in the salivary glands. It also affects other parts of the body such as the throat which is why people find it difficult to swallow and drink. Many patients will feel thirsty, fear water or the sight of water and experience severe pain when swallowing.

Rabies Signs and Symptoms

Aside from difficulty and pain when swallowing, extreme thirst and fear of water, several other symptoms will also develop in just 1 to 2 months after acquiring the virus. If possible, it’s best to observe the animal that bit or scratched the victim. The rabid animal will usually manifest symptoms as well such as becoming aggressive, sensitive to external stimuli and viciousness. Some animals will become lethargic and show weakness in one or more limbs. Some cannot raise its head, bark or make animal sounds because of paralysis in the neck and throat muscles. Rabid animals generally die a few days after the attack due to respiratory failure.

Among individuals infected with rabies, the incubation period which shows the complete absence of symptoms will last anywhere between 10 days and several years. However, most incubation periods only last 30 to 50 days. Afterwards, the patient will experience other associated signs and symptoms like loss of appetite, body weakness or malaise, fever, headache, fatigue, pain, itching or numbness at the site of the bite or scratch, depression and insomnia. Damage or effects on the nervous system will be evident from 2 to 10 days after the initial signs. People may exhibit effects like hypersensitivity, hyperactivity, seizures, hallucinations, fear of light or photophobia, disorientation and paralysis. Many patients die of rabies because of respiratory or cardiac arrest. Some people may fall into a coma which lasts for weeks or months before dying.

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Treating Rabies

When a person is bitten or scratched by a seemingly infected animal, immediately wash the wound or entrance site with soap and running water for several minutes. Many experts suggest not covering the site of the wound with band-aid or gauze.

Continue washing until the bleeding stops. You may apply pressure to clot the blood after washing. Contact your vet if the animal is a house pet or the local animal control center regarding the attack. Immediately visit a doctor to get anti-rabies shots and a tetanus shot. Many experts will advise to observe the animal for a few days to determine if it is rabid. There is no real cure to rabies once the symptoms present. Doctors and families usually provide symptomatic treatment.

Rabies Prevention

There are several ways to avoid the development or occurrence of rabies. People should get their house pets vaccinated regularly. They should also avoid touching animals which they do not know the history of. People can be infected by getting licked, scratched or bitten by animals they find at the park, in a zoo and other places. Immunizations for rabies are quite unique because you only receive it after being exposed to the virus. Always approach strange animals with care or completely stay away from these if possible.

Discussing Rabies with Experts

You can find out more about rabies by reading books, magazines and online articles. There are several websites that show several preventive measures as well as the contact information of agencies and departments that can attend to the problem. People should always contact their doctor if they get bitten even by a house pet that’s regularly vaccinated.

People can get shots to completely prevent the possibility of development even if the animal is vaccinated. Also join forums that focus on animal control and rabies treatment. You can get a lot of tips on how to avoid the problem and how to help others who might have the condition. Report any unusual signs and symptoms to doctors even if these are not generally related with the condition such as headache, dizziness and pain in the muscles.