What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that primarily affects mammals and is spread through contact with the saliva of an infected animal, usually via a bite. It is most commonly seen in wild and domestic mammals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, but it can be found in any mammal. If left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal, making it crucial to seek medical treatment immediately if a person or animal is bitten by a possibly infected animal.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies

The signs and symptoms of rabies in humans typically appear anywhere from three to eight weeks after a person is infected. Common signs and symptoms of rabies in humans include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Hydrophobia (fear of water)
  • Paralysis
  • Excess salivation

Treatment for Rabies

The only effective treatment for rabies is a series of shots known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This must be completed soon after exposure to the virus, ideally within 24-48 hours. PEP includes a dose of human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) and four shots of rabies vaccine, given on days 0, 3, 7 and 14. There is also the option of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) for those who may be at risk of rabies, such as veterinarians, animal control workers and travelers to certain regions of the world. This involves three vaccinations over the course of a month.

How to Prevent Rabies

The best way to prevent rabies is to vaccinate both wild and domestic animals against the virus. In areas where rabies is common, dogs should be kept on leashes and cats indoors. Wild animals should not be touched, fed or disturbed. Educating people about the risks posed by wild animals is essential to reducing the risk of infection.

It is also important to be aware of the risks posed by infected animals and to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your pets. If you are bitten by an animal, it is important to get medical treatment as soon as possible, even if you don't think the animal is infected.