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Rabies – Definition

Rabies is a virus that can be deadly. Signs of rabies can easily spread to humans, usually through a bite, from the saliva of an infected animal.

In the United States, animals that most often carry signs of rabies and transmit the disease to humans include:

  • skunks
  • coyotes
  • bats
  • foxes
  • racoons

In the developing countries of Southeast Asia and Africa, signs of rabies are most commonly spread to people by stray dogs.

Anyone who is at risk for contracting signs of rabies should be vaccinated for protection because signs of rabies are almost always fatal by the time a person begins to show signs and symptoms of the disease.


Rabies virus causes rabies infection. The virus is carried and spread by the saliva of animals that are infected. It can be spread by an infected animal biting another animal or by biting a human. Occasionally, signs of rabies can be transmitted when infected saliva enters the eyes or mouth (mucous membranes). This might happen if an animal with signs of rabies licked an open sore or cut on a person’s skin.

For a human to get signs of rabies, two things must happen:

  • To begin with, you should have contact with a rabid animal.
  • Second, the contact must take into consideration the transmission of infected material, which will include an introduction to the spit of the rabid animal through a bite or scratch.

Ways the infection is transmitted

  • Bites from rabid animals are the most widely recognized method of transmission.
  • Scratches by rabid animals are less likely to cause the disease compared to bites yet are still considered as a potential method of rabies transmission.

Infected tissue in rabid animals includes spit. The infection is transmitted just when the infection gets into bite wounds, open cuts in your skin from scratches or onto mucous membranes. The infection, at that point, spreads from the site of the introduction to your cerebrum and in the end, spreads all through your body’s significant organs.

Animals that can transmit the virus

Any mammal (an animal that feeds its babies breast milk) can spread signs of rabies. Animals most likely to transmit rabies to humans are:

Farm animals and pets:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Cows
  • Ferrets
  • Horses
  • Goats

Wild animals:

  • Beavers
  • Bats
  • Coyotes
  • Monkeys
  • Foxes
  • Skunks
  • Racoons
  • Woodchucks

In rare situations, rabies has been contracted through organ and tissue transplants.


Every year, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gather data about instances of animal and human rabies from the state health divisions and distribute the data in an outlined report. Here are the findings of signs of rabies in the United States.

In 2015, 50 states and Puerto Rico announced 5,508 instances of rabies in animals and 3 instances in humans cases to CDC. This number of announced cases decreased by 8.7 percent compared to 2014 (6,033 raging creatures and 1 human instance of rabies).

Wild creatures represented 92.4 percent of detailed instances of rabies in 2015. Bats were the most out of control natural life species (30.9 percent of every animal case in 2015), trailed by racoons (29.4 percent), skunks (24.8 percent), and foxes (5.9 percent).

Household animals represented 7.6 percent of every out of control animal announced in the United States in 2015. The number of announced rabid dogs increased in 2015 as opposed to 2014, and the quantity of revealed rabid cats diminished from 272 in 2014 to 244 in 2015. The number of rabid cows in 2015 expanded contrasted with 2014, while the number of rabid horses and donkeys decreases from 25 in 2014 to 14 in 2015.

In this century, the number of human deaths in the United States due to rabies has declined from at least 100 every year to a normal of 2 or 3 every year. Two projects have been in charge of this decrease. To start with, animal control and immunization programs started in the 1940’s,

and oral rabies vaccination programs in the 2000’s have eliminated domestic dogs as a reservoir of rabies in the United States. Second, viable human rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins have been produced.

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase the risk of contracting signs of rabies. These include:

  • Living in or traveling to developing countries in which rabies is more common. This includes countries in Southeast Asia and Africa.
  • Participating in activities that may put you in close proximity with animals that often carry signs of rabies, like camping without taking safety precautions to keep animals away from your campsite, or exploring dark caves where bats like to live.
  • Working at a job that requires you to handle the virus (in a laboratory)
  • Wounds to the neck, hands or head. These allow the virus to more rapidly spread to the brain.


As with any disease, rabies has its own complications. These complications include:

  • the constant pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure),
  • irregular heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmias),
  • respiratory failure
  • seizures
  • acute renal failure
  • heart failure
  • gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • coma

In some cases, paralysis occurs at the early onset of signs of rabies.

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Symptoms of Rabies

Signs and symptoms of rabies can happen as quickly as the first seven days of the infection.

The early signs and symptoms of rabies are extremely generalized and include fever, weakness, and headaches. Without a background or history of exposure to rabid animals, these side effects would not raise the doubt of rabies as they are fundamentally the same as normal influenza or other viral disorders.

The sickness would then be able to take on two structures:

With paralytic rabies (roughly 20% of cases), the patient’s muscles gradually get paralyzed (usually beginning at the site of the bite). This is the less common form of rabies and it finishes in either a coma or death.

With furious rabies (around 80% of cases), the patient displays the usual signs and symptoms of rabies such as:

  • nervousness and disarray (The patient is regularly hyperactive)
  • encephalitis, causing mind illusions, confusions, and a trance state;
  • hypersalivation;
  • hydrophobia (fear of water and avoidance of it);
  • has trouble gulping.

Once the clinical symptoms of rabies happen, the sickness is almost constantly lethal.

The first signs and symptoms of rabies that appear may be similar to the flu. They may persist for several days and include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty swallowing, which leads to fear of water
  • Excessive salivation, due to difficulty swallowing
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Partial paralysis

When to see a doctor

If you are bitten by any animal, seek medical attention right away. Depending on the injury and the situation, it will be determined if you need treatment to prevent symptoms of rabies. If you think you may have been bitten, but aren’t sure, seek medical care.

Regardless if you aren’t sure whether you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should still look for medical attention. For example, if a bat that flies into your room while you’re sleeping, it may bite you without waking you up. However, if you woke up to see a bat inside your room, it would best to assume that you’ve been bitten by the bat. Just like this case, if you see a bat near an individual who can’t report a bit, for example, a little kid or a disabled person, you must assume that they have been bitten as well.

Diagnostic Procedures

When an animal bites a person, there is no way of telling if the virus has been transmitted. This is why, if the doctor believes there is a chance a person has been exposed to rabies, treatment for preventing the virus from causing symptoms of rabies infection will be recommended.

In animals, symptoms of rabies are analyzed by recognizing the rabies infection in any influenced part of the creature’s brain. This requires the animal to be euthanized. Testing a speculated animal will help avoid extensive testing in the human contact (if the test is negative) and unnecessary medications.

In people, symptoms of rabies are analyzed by testing saliva, blood tests, spinal liquids, and skin tests. Various tests might be important to diagnose rabies. The tests depend on the identification of proteins on the surface of the rabies infection, the location of the hereditary material of the infection, or an antibody demonstration (immune) reaction to the infection.

Here are some of the test that can confirm symptoms of rabies infection:

  • Direct fluorescent antibody test- The DFA test depends on the perception that animals tainted by rabies infection have rabies virus proteins (antigen) shown in their tissues. Since rabies is available in the nervous tissue (and not blood like numerous different infections), the perfect tissue to test for rabies antigen in the brain. The essential piece of a DFA test is fluorescently-named against rabies counteracting agent. At the point when the marked antibody is incubated with rabies-brain tissues, it will tie to rabies antigen. An unbound immune response can be washed away and areas, where the antigen is available, can be pictured as fluorescent-apple-green zones using a fluorescence magnifying lens. In the event that rabies infection is not present there will be no recoloring.
  • Histologic examination- Histologic examination of biopsy or dissection tissues is every so often valuable in diagnosing unsuspected instances of symptoms of rabies that have not been tried by routine methods. At the point when brain tissue from a rabies-contaminated animal is recolored with a histologic stain, for example, hematoxylin and eosin, confirmation of encephalomyelitis might be recognized by a prepared microscopist. This strategy is nonspecific and not considered analytic for rabies.
  • Immunohistochemistry (IHC)- IHC techniques for rabies diagnosis give sensitive and specific means to distinguish rabies in formalin-fixed tissues. These strategies are more delicate than histologic recoloring techniques, for example, H&E and Sellers stains. Like the DFA test, these methodologies use particular antibodies to identify rabies infection inclusions. The procedures use enzyme-labeling systems that expand sensitivity. Likewise, monoclonal antibodies might be utilized to recognize rabies infection variations.
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Treatment for Rabies

There is no treatment for rabies that is specific. A small number of people have survived rabies infection, but the disease is most often fatal. This is why, even when people suspect they have been exposed to the rabies virus, a series of injections is given to prevent the infection from developing.

Treatment for rabies (people who were bitten)

When a person has been bitten by an animal that has rabies, a series of injections is given to prevent the infection. Sometimes, the animal cannot be found. If this is the case, it is usually best to assume the animal had rabies, but this depends on factors, such as the situation and the type of animal to determine which treatment for rabies is best to use.

The series of treatment for rabies shots include:

  • A rapidly-acting injection: This treatment for rabies is immune globulin. It will prevent the rabies virus from causing the infection. Part of this shot is given close to the bite, and it is given as soon as possible after the bite occurred.
  • The treatment for rabies vaccines is given in a series of four shots in your arm over 2 weeks. These injections help your body identify the virus and fight against it and serve as a treatment for rabies.

Determining whether the animal that bit you has rabies

Sometimes, it can be determined if the animal that bit a person was infected with rabies, before starting the series of injections as the treatment for rabies. If the animal is shown to not have rabies, the person that was bitten will not need the injections.

Depending on what type of animal bit a person, and the way to determine if it has rabies varies. For instance:

  • Farm animals and pets: Dogs, cats, and ferrets that bite a person can be watched for ten days to determine if they show any symptoms of rabies. If the animal has no signs at the end of ten days, it does not have rabies and the shots will not be needed. Other farm animals and pets are considered on an individual basis and it will be determined by the public health department and the physician whether treatment for rabies injections are needed.
  • Wild animals that are caught: Animals that are found and captured can be killed and then tested for rabies. Testing the animal’s brain may show the rabies virus. If rabies is not present, the rabies shots aren’t necessary.
  • Animals that can’t be found: If the animal that bit isn’t found, the situation is usually decided between the patient, their physician and the health department. In many cases, it may be best to proceed with the rabies shots, assuming the animal was infected with rabies. In other cases, rabies shots may not be necessary if the animal was unlikely to be carrying the virus.


To reduce your risk of having contact with an animal that is infected with rabies or carrying the rabies virus:

  • Vaccinate your pets: Dog, ferrets, and cats can be immunized against rabies. Talk to your veterinarian about how often vaccination is needed for your pets to keep them and you safe from rabies.
  • Keep your pets safe: Keep your pets indoors. When they are outside, supervise them. This helps protect them from other animals (wild animals and other pets that are not vaccinated).
  • Protect small animals: If you have small pets, like guinea pigs or rabbits, that can’t be immunized against rabies, keep them in cages or inside. This will protect them from predators.
  • Report strays: Report stray animals to local law enforcement officials or to animal control officers.
  • Don’t approach wild animals: Animals with rabies are often confused and behave abnormally. This includes being unafraid of people. Steer clear of any wild animal, especially one who doesn’t seem afraid or is acting peculiar.
  • Keep bats away: Inspect your home for any gaps or crack where bats can slip in and seal these places. If you have bats in your house, contact an exterminator to help you get rid of them.

If you are planning to travel to Southeast Asia or Africa, ask your doctor about if you should be vaccinated for rabies.

Rabies in people is 100% preventable through fast and appropriate medical care. However, more than 55,000 individuals, for the most part in Africa and Asia, die from rabies consistently – a rate of one individual at regular intervals.

The essential worldwide source of rabies in people is from uncontrolled rabies in canines. Children are regularly at the most serious hazard from rabies. They will probably be bitten or scratched by dogs, and are additionally more inclined to be seriously exposed to numerous bites in high-risk locations on the body. Serious exposures make it harder to prevent rabies unless access to great medical care is immediately accessible.



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