Have you ever been the subject of a dog bite? Immediately after the bite, your mind starts playing tricks on whether you have now gotten rabies or not? This may be more likely if you were bitten by a street dog, compared to a dog reared at home. You start to think whether the owner gave the dog all the necessary injections from getting you ill. Now why should you go through this mental roller coaster every time? Learn about rabies, how it is transmitted and how to prevent it?

Rabies, the viral disease

Rabies is a preventable, viral disease that transmits by the bite of an animal with rabies. It tends to be transmitted to humans 99% of the time from dogs, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The rabies virus ultimately leads to death by affected the central nervous system. It is a progressive disease. Majority of the deaths, over 95% occur in Africa or Asia. Current death rate from rabies is close to 55,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The early symptoms of the disease are:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Discomfort
  • General Weakness

Progressive symptoms of the disease are:

  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Excitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Slight/Partial paralysis
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hyper salivation
  • Hydrophobia (fearing water)

The progression of the disease occurs within days, leading to death.

Vaccine for Rabies

The good news about rabies, is that it is preventable by vaccines. Vaccinating dogs is cost-effective, when comparing it with vaccinating people. However, in developing countries humans receive vaccinations. The importance of vaccination is to prevent rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is essentially the treatment you receive after a bite from a rabid animal. The cost of these measures can be anywhere from $40 to $45. This cost becomes difficult to afford among poor and vulnerable populations.

Who needs vaccination?

  • Travellers
  • If you spend a lot of time outdoors
  • People living in rural areas
  • People living in areas with a lot of stray dogs
  • Campers
  • Hikers
  • Cyclists

which situations require treatment?

WHO have categorised the exposure to rabid dogs into three categories:

Types of contact include:

  • Touching or feeding animals, licks on the skin – Category I
  • Nibbling of uncovered skin, minor scratches or abrasions without bleeding, licks on broken skin – Category II
  • Single or multiple transdermal bites or scratches, contamination of mucous membrane with saliva from licks; exposure to bat bites or scratches – Category III

If you come under category I, you do not need treatment. Therefore, if you come under category II and III, you need to get treatment. We hope that article helped raise awareness of the disease.

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