Rabies remains a big problem in Africa, South Africa and Asia. Over 17.5 million persons world-wide are treated for animal bites annually while about 50,000 persons die from rabies following dog bite. Rabies is rarely contracted from bites by other animals; more than 99 percent of all human rabies infections are due to dog bite. There are two types of rabies—URBAN CANINE-RABIES spread by unvaccinated domestic dogs or cats and the SYLVATIC RABIES spread by bats, wolves, foxes, mongooses, raccoons and skunks.
The following countries are rabies-free areas-Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
1. Q. What is Rabies?
A. Rabies is a sudden and fatal infection of the brain and nerves. It usually follows a bite by a rabies infected animal. The period between a bite and the onset of infection in man is usually 3-7 weeks depending on the distance of the bite from the spinal cord or brain but could extend to several years. An infected animal particularly the dog dies within 10 days of becoming aggressive.
2. Q. What Causes Rabies?
A. Rabies is caused by a virus; the virus is bullet shaped with several protein components.
3. Q. How Does Rabies Spread?
A. Rabies spreads through the bite of an infected animal; the virus is contained in the saliva of infected animals and enters the body through the bite marks or open wound. Rabies occasionally spreads from man to man by bite by an infected person (as the saliva also has the virus) or could be by air in bat caves.
4. Q. When Do You Suspect You May Have Rabies?
A. Suspect rabies if you observe the following after being bitten by a dog or bat or after an open wound is licked by any animal—fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, hallucinations, confusion, tingling sensation in the area of the bite, convulsions and excessive salivation.
5. Q. What Can Put You at Risk?
A. Infection is commonest before the age of 15 years. However, the following are more at risk—veterinary workers, animal handlers, forest workers, hunters.
6. Q. What are the Possible Complications of Rabies?
A.The only complication of a proven case of rabies is death. Once symptoms develop, death occurs within two weeks. Less than five persons with proven case of rabies have survived up-till date.
7. Q.How can You prevent rabies infection?
A.There are vaccines to prevent rabies; pre-exposure (before a bite) and post- exposure (after a bite). Apart from that, all domestic dogs should be vaccinated against rabies from the age of three months. If you are bitten by any animal; dog/bat/cat/foxes/wolves, see your doctor immediately for appropriate treatment.