What is Rabies and What Causes It?

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Louis Pasteur is the scientist who developed the first rabies vaccine in collaboration with his colleague. This international campaign is coordinated by a non-profit organization, Global Alliance for Rabies Control, which is endorsed by World Health Organization and other international animal and human health organization. They work to raise awareness about the impact of rabies on animals and humans. The campaign also aims to educate people about this dangerous disease and the best ways to prevent it.? Here are the causes, symptoms and treatments available.

Rabies is a viral disease caused by Lyssavirus, which attacks the brain of the humans and animals. The virus follows the peripheral nerves to reach the brain. The disease spreads from an infected animal to humans or other animals when the infected animal by scratch or bite of the infected animal. Saliva of the infected animal can also transmit the disease if it comes in contact with mouth, nose, eyes or an open wound. Commonly, rabies cases in humans are because of infected dogs. Other animals that can get infected by the virus are foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats. Among these bats are the most common cause of rabies in humans in the US. Cats can also get infected by the virus.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

The signs and symptoms of rabies in animals include aggression, fearfulness, staggering, difficulty in swallowing, seizure and paralysis. Although it is a common belief that rabid animal becomes aggressive, they may also become very uncharacteristically affectionate due to the infection. In wild animals, the infection can result in loss of their fear of humans. In livestock and horses, the infection can lead to sensitivity to light, self mutilation and depression. The infection in the animals is diagnosed only after their death when the brain matter is analyzed.

In infected humans, it usually takes four to 12 weeks for the symptoms to show after being bitten by an infected animal. The initial symptoms include muscle weakness, fever and tingling sensation. You may experience burning sensation at the site of the animal bite. The virus travels to the brain and this can result in two types of symptoms.

In paralytic rabies, the infected humans become paralyzed and slip into a coma. Eventually, the person dies. In furious rabies, the infected person becomes excitable and hyperactive. The person may also behave erratically. Other symptoms are anxiety, hallucination, insomnia, excess salivation, agitation, fear of water and difficulty in swallowing.

It is difficult to diagnose rabies at the initial phase as the symptoms are not distinguishable and usually appear like flu. WHO recommended fluorescent antibody test (FAT) is used for rabies diagnosis. The disease can be conclusively diagnosed after analyzing the brain matter after death.

After being bitten by an infected animal, the patient is injected with rabies immunoglobulin to stop the infection from setting in. Then the vaccination is given to avoid the disease. A total of five vaccine injections are administered over a period of 14 days. If you get bitten by an animal, it is advisable to get a rabies vaccination as soon as possible protect yourself from the disease. The wound is washed by the doctor and then the injections are given. It is important to note that not all animals are rabid but it is best to consult your doctor if you get bitten by any animal.

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