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Rabies Rundown

By: Ivan Olegario, MD, MDevComRabies Rundown

A dog bite can be a painful experience, but the pain is the last concern of the bite victim. For most people, their main fear is the dreaded rabies. And for good reason. Rabies is one of the few diseases that are almost 100% deadly once you get symptoms.

Such a scary disease can be shrouded in many myths. Get your facts straight with this rundown on rabies:

Fact 1: Rabies is a viral disease that is mainly transmitted by animals.

Rabies is caused by a virus. The virus can be transmitted to a human from the bite or scratch of an animal infected with rabies as well. Remember: animals that are not infected with rabies cannot transmit rabies. Therefore, make sure your pets never get rabies. To keep you and your family safe, have your pets vaccinated.

Fact 2: The rabies virus kills by attacking the brain.

Once the rabies virus enters the body through the wound inflicted via a bite, it attacks the brain. This causes fever, headaches, and later on, paralysis, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, paranoia, terror, hallucinations, delirium, and eventually, coma. Patients may also demonstrate hydrophobia (“fear of water”). This presents as panic when presented with water to drink. This is caused by a combination of delirium and painful spasms of the throat when swallowing. In many patients, saliva production is also increased. Note that the saliva of a person with rabies may transmit rabies to others, even before symptoms develop.

Fact 3: An animal bite is an urgent concern.

Some people recommend observing the animal for 10 days after the bite. If the animal dies or develops rabies symptoms, the victim should immediately go to the hospital. But some patients with rabies have died within 4 days of the animal bite—way before the 10-day mark. Therefore, doing the 10-day observation period can be dangerous. If you are ever bitten by an animal, whether a strange animal or a familiar pet, seek medical attention within 2 days.

Rabies is such an important global health problem that the foundation of the world’s richest man, Bill Gates (Microsoft founder), actively gives financial support for the rabies program of the World Health Organization.

Fact 4: Vaccinations for animals and victims are crucial.

The best way to prevent rabies is to vaccinate your pets against rabies.

Vaccination is not recommended for all humans. Instead, post-exposure vaccination (vaccination after being bitten) is recommended. Exposure rabies vaccination is recommended for people at high risk to live rabies (laboratory staffs, veterinarians, animal handlers, wildlife staff, and children in highly pandemic areas).

If bitten by a rabies-infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with soap and water. Disinfect with ethanol or iodine tinnitus. Seek medical attention. An infected disease specialist with expert knowledge on rabies prevention should be consulted.

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